FAME - Coastal Fisheries Programme

Number 12 - December 1998


Editor: Neil Anthony Sims

Production: Information Section, Marine Resources Division, SPC, PO BOX D5, 98848 Noumea Cedex, New Caledonia Fax (687) 263818)

Produced with financial assistance from Australia, France and New Zealand

From the editor

We have recently had the pleasure of travelling through several of the Pacific Island countries, looking at joint-venture development opportunities for pearl culture within the Small Island States on behalf of the Forum Secretariat. Part of this work involved examination of various tax and investment regimes, as they apply to pearl culture. The results were surprising for the dramatic differences in receptivity to foreign investment expressed in the different countries’ codes. These ranged from an outright ban on any foreign ownership in any pearl culture-related enterprise in one country, attempting to protect local ownership in existing farms, to attractive tax incentives in island countries seeking to jump-start outer island economies (have you noticed the price of copra lately?). There were also many countries that seemed lost in the muddle in between.

The conflicting attitudes to foreign investment were perhaps best exemplified in a draft fisheries development plan that we recently offered comments on, for a country with a nascent industry. The plan called for foreign investment to help get pearl culture moving, but stated the express intention, once the industry was up and running, of eliminating all foreign ownership and turning pearl culture over to exclusively local ownership. This seems hardly a persuasive argument for someone to plonk his money down!

We must, of course, declare an interest here: we are intimately involved in the argument, with our Marshall Islands subsidiary being largely financed by overseas investment. We are ourselves an ‘overseas partner’ in this and other ventures. So it is not appropriate for us, or for anybody else, to tell any Pacific Island nation how they should develop their pearl culture industry. It is not appropriate for anyone to tell any prospective farmer in the Pacific how he should raise his capital. It is, most definitely, his own business.

Foreign investment is a double-edged sword, and is not always needed. French Polynesia and the Cook Islands have both been able to bootstrap their pearl farming operations, with extended family co-operatives using spat collectors to raise farm stocks. Spat collecting may also work in some open reef areas of the Pacific (note the recent work in Solomon Islands by the ICLARM-CAC), and farming there may follow a low-capital, labour-intensive path.

However, where hatcheries or other capital-intensive investments are needed, then foreign investment is a logical source to tap. There simply is not enough capital available in the Pacific Islands to warrant its venturing this far out on the ‘risk-to-return’ scale.

Finding investment is perhaps a little like fishing: you have to be in the right place at the right time, and you have to have good fresh bait. Prospective farmers that are seeking foreign investment should therefore make sure that they know what precisely is offered in the tax and investment codes in their countries (and in their competitors’). Who would an interested investor first contact? Where would they be steered towards? What tax, duty, or other breaks are offered? Are there supporting, binding documents to this effect? The desire for foreign investment and/or technical assistance in pearl culture also needs to be clearly stated somewhere. The Fisheries Sector Development Plan is a good place to start.

If there are few or no incentives, it is probably time to call your friends in the political and bureaucratic arenas. Yes, there may be more biologists than businessmen amongst our readership, but the two interests intersect very sharply, at precisely this point. If you are wanting to grow an industry, you must ensure that it is given the proper nutrients to nourish it.

My trip also enabled me to spend some time at the Tahiti pearl auction in April. This was an epiphany, an eye-opening experience. The marketing efforts of M. Coeroli, et al., should be resoundingly applauded by us all.

Another recent event (actually an obvious step to improve seeding techniques, once you think about it for more than a minute) has been the increasing use of antibiotic-coated nuclei for seeding. We found many folk in French Polynesia using these nuclei, and we include here an abstract from a recent paper announcing some early results on trials.

Our trip also enabled us to meet with many of you–farmers and prospective farmers, fisheries department folk and pearl marketers. It has been pleasing to hear how well received the POIB is, and how useful most of you seem to find it. Thank you. Suggestions or contributions are always welcomed, as you are all well aware. And if you mention your appreciation to the SPC staff or the French Ambassador next time you run into them, it would ensure that your message is received in the right circles.

Neil Anthony Sims


• Research Notes and Reports

Myanmar pearling: past, present and future
by Tint Tun

ACIAR project enters second phase

Pearling progress in Tonga

Lessons learned in two years as a P. margaritifera farmer
by Jerry Myers

An open invitation from Kavieng

A letter from India: A plea for diversity, and a success story
by Daniel S. Dev

Research on Pinctada radiata in the Red Sea
by Mohammed Hamed Yassein

GIA’s new pearl programme offers students comprehensive pearl knowledge

Download the complete publication:

Pearl Oyster #12 (pdf: )

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