Saltwater Akoya Farming
Akoya Pearl Farming is continuing to grow as an industry and skilled trade. The Akoya pearl oyster is called the Pinctada Fucata. Today, Akoya pearl farmers breed these oysters in hatcheries, as opposed to collecting them in the wild. They are not nucleated until they are 24 to 36 months old, and approximately 5cm to 13cm in diameter. The Akoya oyster can handle up to 5 nuclei per oyster. Their pearl growth period is approximately 8 to 24 months, and they can only handle one nucleation. After harvesting for the pearl jewelry, the oyster is sold usually for its meat.
Akoya pearls are usually nucleated in the spring and summer. The nucleation process is the same for all saltwater pearl oysters, though many experts say that nucleating an Akoya oyster is much easier than a Tahitian or South Sea oyster. Pearl farmers must be careful with many aspects of the cultivation process. One such thing is the temperature of the water. It has been shown that the water temperature can influence the nacre thickness and quality of an Akoya pearl. Not to mention that if the water is too hot or too cold, the oysters could die all together. The warm current that sweeps along the northwest coast of Japan is usually ideal for Akoya pearl farming.
Japan has about 2000 different pearl farms, with around 10% of them large industrial operations. There are many pearl farmers on these farms, though most of them are seasonal workers that are hired only during the harvest period. A small Akoya pearl farm usually manages about 50,000 oysters a year.