Preparing the pearl oysters for hanging on the farm
There are many ways to hold adult pearl oysters including chaplets, lantern baskets, pocket nets and floating or submerged trays (see Figure 11 – different ways of holding pearl oysters-chaplets, lantern baskets, pocket panels). You must decide which method is best for your location and budget. Chaplets are the easiest and least expensive method, and can be made from line that is easily obtainable. The various containers (lantern baskets, pocket panels or trays) are particularly useful in protecting smaller pearl oysters or spat from predators, but are more expensive and must either be purchased or manufactured using special materials.
A variety of containers are commonly used to hold adult pearl oysters or larger spat. Gervis and Sims (1992). The most commonly used type is a pocket panel that holds 10 or 20 pearl osyters. Whichever method you choose to use, be sure that you carefully clean the pearl oysters each time you move them or transfer them into new containers. Proper spacing of pearl oysters is important as crowding can lead to stress and disease. Pearl oysters are powerful filter feeders and will filter a large amount of water each day to obtain enough algae to keep themselves fed. If too many adult pearl oysters are crowded together, they may not be able to obtain enough food from the surrounding water to keep Figure 10. Oysters hanging from chaplets. them healthy.
Guidelines for keeping pearl oysters on chaplets or in containers
- Hang only 10-15 pearl oysters on each chaplet, spacing them about 9 in (20 cm) apart on the chaplet.
- Although it is common to hang 20 or more pearl oysters on a single chaplet, this makes the chaplet longer, heavier and harder to handle. It may also lead to crowding on the farm, resulting in disease or reduced pearl quality. When tying the chaplets on the main line, leave at least 38 in (1 m) of space between the chaplets.
- Main lines should be spaced at least 66 ft (20 m) apart on a farm. This spacing helps to keep the chaplets and lines from getting tangled and prevents crowding.
- If uing chaplets, you must first clean and then drill the pearl oysters. Use a 1/8-in drill bit to drill a hole near the pointed edge of the shell (the ear) towards the back of the shell. Figure 12 shows an external view of a pearl oyster indicating the spot for drilling. Be careful not to drill into the meat of the animal.
- Use a length of 18-gauge stainless steel wire to attach the pearl oyster to the chaplet or 80-lb mono-filament (nylon fishing line).
When drilling many pearl oysters, it is easiest to mount the drill solidly on a Figure 12. Pearl oysters should be drilled in the “ear”, the corner of the shell opposite the byssal notch taking care not to drill through the internal tissues. Then the pearl oyster can be attached to the chaplet line using either stainless steel wire or mono-filament (fishing line). table rather than holding it in your hand. Farms where there is no electricity commonly use 12-volt drills powered by car batteries. Chaplets and the lengths of stainless steel wires can be reused many times.
One problem that may be encountered when using chaplets is that the mono-filament line or stainless steel wire used to attach the pearl oysters to the chaplets may break. If this happens, it is usually an indication that heavier line or wire is needed. Also, it may be a sign that the lines are experiencing too much motion due to wind or rough water. Sinking the lines a bit deeper or choosing a calmer area for the farm may help solve this problem.
For panels, trays and lantern baskets: When using containers of any type, it is important to prevent crowding. Adult oysters should not touch each other when kept in containers. Try to leave a space of at least 4 in (10 cm) around each pearl oyster. Fast-growing pearl oysters have shell edges with many small, flattened spines giving it a frilly appearance. If your pearl oysters do not look like this, they are not growing quickly and you should try giving them more space.
If using panels, trays or lantern baskets, clean the pearl oysters first. Soak the new panels, trays or lantern baskets in salt water for 1 week before using, helping to remove any possible contamination from the equipment. Pocket panels are most commonly used for adult pearl oysters and usually hold 6 to 18 animals. One difficulty with panels is that they tend to foul rapidly and frequent cleaning is needed. It is helpful to transfer pearl oysters into new panels at each periodic cleaning, then mend the old panels and let them dry until needed again. Mending and drying of the panels can then be done during leisure hours and the pearl oysters can be returned to the water immediately. A helpful hint when using pocket panels is to insert the pearl oysters into the panels with the byssal notch facing outwards (towards the frame). The pearl oysters will commonly attach themselves to the mesh of the panel and it is easiest to cut them free if the attachment is on the outer edge of the panel.
With very small pearl oysters (less than 4 in or 10 cm in length), it may be necessary to tie the opening of the pockets closed with a piece of line to keep them from being dislodged in rough weather. Lantern baskets are best used for spat, since they are too cumbersome to work with when adult pearl oysters are kept in them. Lantern baskets must be kept clean and inspected frequently for predators. Trays can be used for either adults or spat, but offer the disadvantage of providing little protection unless covered. As with lantern baskets, they must be cleaned and inspected frequently.
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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