Researchers from both Japan and Bahrain will conduct joint research this year on pearl oysters from off the Middle Eastern nation’s coast, with the hope of reviving the traditional industry from Persian Gulf. Starting in May, the Japanese scientists, some of which will come from the Fisheries Research Agency, will join their counterparts in Bahrain to study some 30,000 “akoya” pearl oysters from 10 to 25 meters beneath the surface.
The government of Bahrain will be funding the research, as the small island country is interested in understanding why there has been a rapid decrease in natural pearls, believing it is tied to their economic development and subsequent decrease in water quality. The researchers also plan to install nets to protect the pearl oysters from being eaten by their natural predators, as well as begin promoting environmentally friendly methods of development. They hope these measures will result in an increase in pearl production.
As one of the last existing examples of traditional pearl harvesting, a site on Bahrain’s Muharraq Island was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2012. Between the second century and the 1930s, the economy of the gulf region was dominated by the trade of pearls, with the nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates being the most successful. While there are around 100 varieties of pearl oysters in the region, only a few produce the natural pearls that can make necklaces worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Japan’s benefit will not only come from helping the recovery efforts, but also in gaining in an opportunity to export the country’s pearl technology.