Pearl Oyster Farming, Cost, Profits – A Full Guide

Pearl Oyster Farming (Pic source
Pearl Oyster Farming (Pic source

Guide for Pearl Oyster Farming; Cost and Profits.

The following content is all about Pearl Oyster Farming business. You can also find investment required for pearl farming and profits in this business.

Introduction to Pearl Oysters

This is the biggest profit making farming business that generates 200% profit with no tax deductions yet the most neglected farming business. It is neglected due to lack of awareness and the purpose of writing this article is to bring basic information for entrepreneurs and farmers how to successfully start pearl farms to produce the best quality pearls. The other reason might be that most pearl farmers keep the farming traditional methods and latest technology hiding them as a secret to avoid competition.

There are a large scope and potentiality in exploring raw materials in the coastal regions with high local market demand. Pearl farming is becoming recognized as an alternative livelihood for coastal fishermen and young entrepreneurs to develop pearl oyster farming business as a substantial economic corridor which is getting changed over the last five decades. This is no more a dependent wild catch farming but a culture of oysters rearing in hatcheries by seeding.

Man discovered pearls thousands of years ago and people irrespective of cultures and geographic locations admired the beauty and recognized the value of pearls. Natural pearls were over-exploited due to which Japanese researchers developed methods to produce pearls in the early 20th century. These cultured pearls are produced by a surgical procedure called grafting which is implanting an artificial nucleus into the tissue of a pearl oyster. Over the years the cultured pearls are harvested as oysters secrete nacre around the nucleus leading the formation of pearls inside the shells. Through this grafting method, several species of oysters can be cultivated for pearl production.  Let us discuss more saltwater pearl oyster farming or sea pearl oyster farming business in upcoming sections

Difference Between Freshwater Pearl Farming Culture and Saltwater Pearl Farming Culture

  • Freshwater Pearl Culture: These are grown in mussels living in rivers and lakes of fresh waters.
  • Saltwater Pearl Culture:  It is the process of pearls created by oysters in oceans or seas.

Understanding the Biology

Pearl oysters belong to the class Bivalvia and members of the phylum Mollusca. They are most commonly found in tropical regions where the water temperatures are between 25° to 30° C and they stop breeding and die at temperatures below 23° C. They can tolerate high water salinity and grow well in clear water with less sediment and are found to have difficulty feeding in turbid waters.

Oysters are found in groups in their natural habitat both juveniles and adults and are termed as gregarious. In the early years between two to three years, most oysters are first males and then become female which means they are protandric hermaphrodites. The female releases millions of eggs and the egg fertilization occurs randomly when sperms are released by males in the water column. Fertilized eggs develop into trochophore larva within a day which remains suspended for the next one month before undergoing metamorphosis transforming into a juvenile spat. In the metamorphosis stage, the larvae develop an enlarged foot and an eye-spot which helps the young juveniles the ability to move for the next several months. Tiny hair-like cilia on the large gills in the bivalves help feed on algae and other small organisms in the water. Overcrowding of pearl oysters in the farm will compete for food as a large amount of water must be filtered on a daily basis which will lead to improper growth.


Cultured Pearl Oysters.
Cultured Pearl Oysters.
  • Pearl farming is eco-friendly and oyster purifies the water acting as filter feeders.
  • A single oyster filter over 15 gallons of water a day and a small oyster farm cleans 50 to 100 gallons of water on a day. It retains particles as small as two microns.
  • Oyster farm removes harmful pollutants and accumulates heavy metals in the water.
  • In pearl farming, the end product has high value thereby making it an attractive business with huge profit margins. Size, shape, and quality are the things that directly affect the pricing of the pearls in the market.
  • Pearls are light in weight and imperishable products.
  • Pearl farming invites and promotes tourism. It also promotes foreign exchange earnings to the nation.

Selecting a Site

To produce good pearls and to have healthy pearl farm, the selection of a good site is the most important first step. Farm location determines if the farm can be successful or not. The pearl farming site must be safe from thefts and also from pollution. One of the best ways to select and start a farm site is to observe the presence of an adult or juvenile ones in the location or a site where corals exist. Farm site must be free from any kind of pollution and contamination. The water must be free from rough waters that stir up sand and silt, and the farm must be not near to freshwater resources. The farm site must be located between 70 to 110 feet away from reef areas. It must be away from reef areas as mollusk-eating predators such as fishes and octopus exist near the reef areas. Sites that have low depth have a disadvantage as there will be no room to hang farm lines at the same time sites that are too deep will not be feasible for diving and also seeded oysters that get dropped off cannot be retrieved.

Water currents are very beneficial in oyster farming locations as they are the sources in supplying of oxygen and nutrients. A slight water current on both the surface as well as beneath the farm is an excellent site location for pearl farming. Oyster pearl farms are highly prone to thefts for their value hence they must be on the constant vigil and within reachable sight. Farm sight must be located away from fishing activity and boat traffic as they might damage the lines.

Pearl Farm Types and How to Setup Pearl Oyster Farm

Pearl farms need some means of structure to hold oyster shells in the water. These structures can be of three types, and they are as follows:

Tahitian Longline Method

This method gets its name as this type of pearl farming is very commonly found in Tahiti islands. In this method, a mainline is drawn vertically inside the water with ends tied to a coral or a rock or an anchoring point. The mainline can be 18 mm and anchor lines of 12 mm of polypropylene or nylon rope. Anchor lines are drawn on either side of the mainline every 20 meters interval. Anchor lines must ensure the mainline is not drifted to the sides along with the currents and must be firmly tied with a slipknot that can be untied to make adjustments whenever required. To keep the mainline afloat without sinking or looping due to the weight of oyster shells, place buoys or floats by tying at regular intervals and which can be adjusted as and when required to keep the mainline straight. On the Tahitian mainline are placed strings that will be holding oyster shells. The oyster shells can be farmed by a variety of pearl oyster containers such as chaplets, lantern baskets, net pocket panels and juvenile collectors that will be hanging on the mainline.

Floating Rafts Method:

This method is commonly used in countries like Japan and Indonesia for pearl farming. This method of farming through rafts works well at places where the waters are very calm with gentle water currents and in theft protected areas. This farming method is a little expensive compared with Tahitian method as this requires lightweight timber or hollow pipes or bamboo. The raft is supported with large sealed drums or styrofoam floats to keep the raft floating inside the waters. Choosing of materials is important as long lasting seawater enduring materials must be used for pearl farming rafts to last long. Some of the advantages in raft pearl farming method are, this method requires minimum maintenance; the raft structure is strong and firm that it can support any variety of pearl oyster containers including net pocket panels, baskets, lantern baskets, box cages, and rope hanging. Care must be given that the raft is properly anchored and must not break while the anchoring must be firmly fixed.

Underwater Trestles Method:

This method is an expensive and strongly built structure. The structure is built underwater in shallow waters and requires maintenance. The structure is similar to that of the raft method, in trestle method the structure is built with timber or PVC pipes or steel pipes and all the materials that are used must be resistant to corrosion. Trestles can be built in two ways; low trestles and higher trestles depending on the water depth. Trays and cages can be used for low trestle structures while hangings such as cages, lantern baskets, chaplets, and others can be used for higher trestle structures. The big advantage in pearl trestle farming, it is good for growing spat or juveniles. Since it is constructed in shallow waters it is highly prone to predator animals including fishes, snails, crabs, and others. Regular monitoring of trays and hangings for predators, those must be removed and destroyed from the farming site.

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Pearl Oyster Management

Maintaining the farm by tending the oyster pearl farm is an important management skill duty in producing good and valuable pearls. Below are the following good pearl farm management skills:

Checking the Farm Site Periodically:

Regular visits to the pearl farm will lead you to better harvest and yield. Check the pearl farm site every once in two days for any damaged floats or any missing lines. Adjust the mainline not to be straight and vertical without any loop hanging by either tightening the anchor lines and by adding or adjusting the floats. Keep an eye on any missing or stolen oyster shells or any shells that have died.

Regular Farm Cleaning:

Many fouling organisms grow on the lines, shells, and other hangings. Over a period of time, they cause the lines either to sink or break due to the increased weight. These organisms also grow everywhere over the shell by preventing oysters from closing completely, sometimes they bore through the shells, and they also compete for food. Regular and thorough cleaning of the shells and the lines will keep the farm site healthy and yields more pearls.

Handling of Oysters during Cleaning:

Pearl oysters get stressed after cleaning. Frequent cleaning of shells is not recommended but cleaning can be done once in every month. Avoid pearl oyster shells out of the water not more than 17 to 20 minutes. Shells can be cleaned by hand or with wire brush or knife with gentle care.

Diseases of Oysters

Pearl oysters by nature withstand against the many disease organisms that are present in the water. Not much is known about diseases and treatment but oysters are sensitive to stress that leads to death or slow growth. Stress is one big major concern in pearl farming. Pearl oysters can be stressed in many ways such as:

  • Polluted water from boats, chemicals from factories and villages.
  • When oyster shells are not gently handled while working on them or while cleaning.
  • When exposed to heat and cold.
  • At the time of grafting, as grafting is a very stressful process.
  • Fouling organisms when gathered on shells.
  • At the time of transporting.
  • When they are overcrowded.
  • When food or oxygen is not enough.

Grafting and Nucleus Implantation of Pearl Oysters

Grafting is nothing but surgical implantation of nucleus and tissue inside the oyster shell for the development of a cultured pearl. Pearls are formed by the secretion of nacre around a foreign body by the mantle tissue to protect the tissues inside the oyster shell. The nucleus can be of organic or inorganic matter such as sand grain, blood cells of the same species, parasites, or decaying plant particles, etc. They can either enter naturally when oyster shell valves open at the time of feeding and respiration. When these foreign bodies settle between the shell and mantle, a pearl-sac is formed around the foreign body.  Without this pearl-sac, pearls cannot be formed which secretes nacre which gets deposited over the foreign body forming a pearl in a period of time.

Harvesting of Pearls

Usually harvesting a cultured pearl is done manually by extracting pearls either by cutting or separating the two valves and squeezing the pearl out. Most commercial pearl farmers reuse the oyster shells by carefully opening the pearl-sac without damaging the organs or tissues or giving stress to the oyster. These oyster shells can be reused for the production of pearls for the second time. Pearls that are collected must be washed in distilled water followed with polishing by rubbing with refined salt and washed again thoroughly in distilled water. Harvested pearls then sorted by grading according to size, texture, shape, color, luster, and other characteristics.

Harvest of Different Pearls.
Harvest of Different Pearls.

Marketing of Pearls

Buyers directly buy pearls directly from the pearl farmers from the farming site. Some farmers can also directly market pearls to the wholesalers or retail outlets, or jewelers as many of these buyers will have direct business contacts or relations. Most farmers sell pearls in lots while few sell individual pearls in the market. Lots can be of pearls of similar size and quality and some lots can be based on complete harvest yield.

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Pearl farming project economic evaluation is based on a raft farming method of 7 x 7 m farm size. Below projections are based only on information and to give information of about how much approximate income profit can be made. Some of the variable charges such as consultancy, marketing, and others are not included in the project calculations.

Raft Size7 x 7 meter
Total no.of Oyster shells cultured14,112
No.of Cages140
No.of oysters sacrificed for graft tissue1,270
No.of Oysters grafted with nucleus (3-5 mm dia)12,842
No.of Oysters after the post-operative period (mortality rate 20%)10,274
No.of Pearls harvested ( 35% yielded while 65% did not contain pearls)3,596
Sale of Grade A pearls (10% of the harvest) at Rs.250/pearl90,000/-
Sale of Grade B pearls at Rs.50/pearl1,61,800/-
Investment and Cost of the project for two years
Cost of raft structure ( bamboo, poles, anchor lines, floats)75,000
Cages (140 nos) for rearing oyster shells15,000
Purchase of oyster shells at Rs. 1.50/seed21,170
The cost incurred for Shell bead nucleus at Rs.1.25/bead16,050
Laboratory charges and equipment15,000
Labor charges for pearl oyster grafting7,500
Revenue and Profits
No.of Pearls Harvested3,596
Sale of Harvested Pearls (Rs.)2,51,800/-
Cost of 437 pearls given to fishermen as labor charges21,850/-
Total Revenue2,73,650/-
Total Investment Cost (one-time investment)1,49,720/-
Net Profit in the first Harvest1,02,080/-

Some Pearl Culture and Pearl Farming Training Institutes in India

Indian Pearl Oyster Farming Training Institute

Arniya Mojpur, Khurja,

Uttar Pradesh 203131

Phone: 095408 83888.

Swastik Pearl Oyster Training

Mr. Shivam

Vijay Nagar, Alwar

Rajasthan – 301001.

Phone: 09415590092

Pearl Culture Training In Rajasthan, India

10/29, Pratap Nagar Housing Board,

Sector 1, Near KV 6, Sanganer,

Jaipur  –  302033

Phone: 096728 68980

Indian Pearl Oyster Farming/Culture Training

Contact No: 09860661174 & 09271282561.

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  1. rajasthan pearl farming training and trading center in rajasthan science sept. 2015
    pearl farming in rajasthan kotputli jaipur india


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