Saltwater South Sea Farming
The scientific name for the south sea pearl oyster is the pinctada maxima. This oyster is more commonly known as the silver-lipped or gold-lipped oyster depending on the color. These oysters are typically collected by the pearl farmers in the wild and then further grown in hatcheries. They are about 24 months old when nucleated, and around 12 to 17 cm in diameter. Only one nucleus is placed in each oyster and the growth period is 20-24 months long. Each south sea pearl oyster can be nucleated up to 3 cycles.
The oysters are usually given a period of rest when they arrive at the pearl farm, in order to adjust to the local conditions. Each south sea pearl farm creates cultivation techniques that suit its own particular characteristics. Sites for cultivation including South Sea Pearls are only if chosen they have adequate space, protection from weather, good water depth, temperature of the water, clean water, good quality, quantity of plankton and tidal flow. These conditions affect the amount havested for pearl jewelry.
They set up their farms using one of two farming systems. They could use the long-line system, in which net panels hold the oysters between 1 and 3 meters below the surface. The oysters are in panels that hang from vertical lines that in turn hang from long horizontal lines that are held afloat by buoys spaced at regular intervals. Or they could use the bottom system in which the oysters are held in net panels attached to posts that are firmly fixed on the sea floor. If the pearl farm is located in a less sheltered area then this is the preferred system, where the long-line system would expose the oysters to unstable conditions.