Handling and transport on Pearls Farm
The most important thing to remember when handling or transporting pearl oysters is that they are living animals and must be treated carefully. Rough treatment, exposure to heat or cold, and long periods out of the water can stress the pearl oyster. Stress is the primary cause of disease in aquatic animals. Even a short period of stress can weaken the pearl oyster so that it is more likely to become sick or produce a poor quality pearl. Pearl oysters are valuable animals and are sensitive to environmental changes. Each seeded pearl oyster is potentially worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Only a healthy pearl oyster can produce a high quality pearl, and it may only take a short period of stress to damage the developing pearl. It is well worth the extra time and effort required to keep the pearl oysters alive and healthy.
The basics of safe handling
Clean pearl oysters and equipment before handling and transporting. Cleaning pearl oysters and the equipment used to clean them helps prevent infections or contamination with chemicals. It is particularly important to clean any equipment that has come into contact with oil or gas. Cleaning the pearl oysters of fouling animals and plants before transport is also especially necessary because these organisms may die during transportation, resulting in decomposing matter that consumes oxygen and produces toxins that could harm the pearl oysters. Pearl oysters should be cleaned with a wire brush or knife. This should be done very gently without breaking the shell, since this slows the growth of the pearl oyster. Always bury the waste produced by cleaning on land or dispose of it in the sea outside of the lagoon. Never put the waste in the water near the pearl oysters as it not only pollutes the water, but as it rots it will also harm the oysters.
Only clean saltwater should be allowed to contact the pearl oysters. The only time that freshwater should contact the pearl oysters is if it is used as a quick rinse to help prevent fouling. Immersion for more than a few minutes in freshwater can kill pearl oysters. Similarly, dirty seawater or seawater that is warmer or colder than the water in which the pearl oysters were grown can also be harmful.
During transport, pearl oysters prefer to be moist rather than submerged in water without an air supply. When pearl oysters are immersed in water, they open their shells and try to breathe. In small containers of water with no source of air, pearl oysters will suffocate quickly. If the pearl oysters are kept wrapped in materials such as burlap bags or papers that are moistened in clean seawater, they keep their shells closed and will not dry out or suffocate for long periods of time. If kept in the shade, they can survive for several hours out of the water this way.
Always keep pearl oysters lying flat on their side when out of the water.
Pearl oysters cannot close their shells tightly enough to prevent water from escaping. If they are kept out of the water in a vertical position, the water trapped inside their shells will quickly leak out. The pearl oysters will then open their shells to try to breathe and will dry out. Laying pearl oysters lying on their sides helps keep them moist. Protect pearl oysters from exposure to heat, cold, drying out, rough handling, dirt and chemicals.
Any of these things can kill or shock pearl oysters. Avoid these by limiting how much time pearl
oysters spend out of the water and follow the guidelines listed above. Minimize the amount of time pearl oysters are kept out of the water. If kept moist and lying on their sides and if not exposed to heat or sun, pearl oysters can generally remain out of the water for about 20-30 minutes before gaping. However, if possible, avoid exposing pearl oysters for even this length of time.
Handle pearl oysters gently and with care. Rough treatment can break the pearl oyster’s shell or shock the animal, either of which can slow pearl development or affect the quality.
How to collect pearl oysters
Remove pearl oysters by gently cutting the byssal threads, not by pulling it free. Pearl oysters anchor themselves to the reef or other hard substrate by threads called “byssal threads” or “byssus.” Because the byssal threads are attached to the internal organs, harvesting a pearl oyster by pulling the byssal threads free can damage the organs and kill it. This is especially important to note after the pearl oyster has been grafted. Pulling on the byssal threads can affect formation of the pearl. If the pearl oyster attaches to the chaplet or panel, cut it loose.
Transporting pearl oysters in coolers
Pearl oysters can be transported without water if kept cool and moist. The best way to do this is by using a Styrofoam or plastic cooler (also called ice chests or chiller bins). First, scrub the cooler with clean seawater. Then put a layer of paper or cloth dampened with clean seawater in the bottom. Next put in a layer of pearl oysters. Cover the pearl oysters with more damp paper or cloth. More layers of alternating pearl oysters and wet cloth or paper are then added. Keep the cooler cool by placing it in the shade. You can add a very small amount of ice, but be careful not to let water collect at the bottom of the cooler (use a cooler with a drain if you plan to use ice). Pearl oysters will die if left soaking in accumulated water, whether freshwater or seawater. It is better to use ice packs, which can be frozen and reused. Although pearl oysters have been shipped successfully using this method for periods up to 24 hours, try and limit the time in the cooler to 5 or 6 hours. Keep the temperature inside at 26-28°C (about the same temperature as the seawater from which they came).
The pearl oysters should be kept cool, but not cold, since this may weaken them. Handle the cooler gently without allowing it to get jostled in the boat. Transporting pearl oysters on the deck of a boat Avoid transporting pearl oysters where contaminated air or water is present. Transporting pearl oysters on the deck of a boat is a common practice, but if the pearl oysters are exposed to oil, gas or heat in the air or in the water, they could die. The deck of a boat is often full of water that contains oil or gas from the outboard engine. Try and keep the oysters on a platform or in a container away from this oily water.
Pearl oysters should never be kept in standing water in an enclosed area like a boat deck, or in a bucket. When pearl oysters sit in a small amount of water, they open their shells and try to breathe and feed. The oxygen in this small amount of water is used up quickly and the pearl oyster will suffocate and die. It is better to transport pearl oysters in baskets, panels or damp sacks so that any water will drain out. Pearl oysters do much better if kept just a little moist and cool, but not wet. Pearl oysters must be protected from the heat of the sun. Always cover pearl oysters with a moist sack or palm leaves when exposed to sun. Try to transport pearl oysters during the coolest times of day. You can also occasionally douse them with fresh seawater, as long as this water does not accumulate around them.
Limit transport on deck to 30 minutes or less.
If you have to transport pearl oysters for longer than 30 minutes, try to use coolers. At the very least, wet the pearl oysters with clean seawater, taking care that the water drains away.
Transporting pearl oysters in tanks Pearl oysters can be transported for longer periods of time using special seawater tanks, but you must have a pump to keep water flowing in and out of the tanks at all times.
It is rarely necessary to transport pearl oysters for such long distances that tanks need to be used. Transporting pearl oysters in tanks is more expensive and complicated than other methods. In addition, transport tanks require special materials for building the tanks and pumping system. It is also possible that something will go wrong with the pump and the pearl oysters will die. If you need to use tanks to transport many pearl oysters or to transport them over long distances, you should contact your aquaculture extension agent for advice on how to properly build and operate the tank.
Article source: The Basic Methods of Pearl Farming, Author: A Layman’s ManualMaria Haws, Ph.D. (Director, Pearl Research and Training Program, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI 96720 USA, Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, Publication No. 127, March 2002)
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