Justin Hunter, who presented the plan for environmentally and socially sustainable pearl farming in the Pacific Ocean island nation of Fiji.
November 6, 2017
Two presentations – one on a course for the public and the jewellery industry based on work by the Cultured Pearl Association of America and the other on the Fiji Pearl Development Plan for cultured pearls – were at the heart of the Pearl Commission’s meeting. The session was chaired by the commission’s vice president, Olivier Segura, in the absence of Pearl Commission President Kenneth Scarratt, who was unable to attend that day.
A presentation entitled Pearls as One was given by Jeremy Shepherd, who is CEO of Pearl Paradise, and Treasurer and Marketing Chair of the Cultured Pearl Association of America. He started out by explaining that only about 10 percent of jewellery retailers in the United States carry cultured pearls. “We believe this is due to a lack of education. Consumers rely on their jewellers to make buying decisions, and they are receiving a lot of misinformation, which is affecting their buying decisions.”
“When I started selling online 20 years ago, I saw there was a,lot of incorrect information. I started a website called Pearl-Guide that is completely non-commercial with lots of info. I also set up a forum that now has 7,000 members – consumers, retailers, academics, wholesalers and pearl farmers. Mostly aged between 25 to 45,” he said.
Mr. Shepherd explained that the Cultured Pearl Association of America has set up Pearls As One, a course on cultured pearls with 10 modules and four quizzes taking about two weeks to complete, which provides a great deal of information. Students are given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments and interact with an instructor online, he said. The course has been translated into French, Spanish, German, traditional Chinese, Russian and Japanese, and is also being translated into Italian and Vietnamese,.
“We are able to update it in real time because it is online. People can take the course in their own time. We believe that education has the power to change the industry for the better, so we are giving it away for free,” he stated.
Coral Commission Vice-President Rui Galopim said he had completed the course and said he would recommend that every retailer do the same, to understand what they are doing and to be able to convey the product’s message. “It has sales tips on how to present pearls and how to sell them. I encourage everyone here to do the course. It is an excellent user experience. As a result we are thinking of doing something similar for the Coral Commission.”
Following Mr. Shepherd’s presentation, Justin Hunter presented the Fiji Pearl Development Plan for cultured pearls, established by the Fiji government and the Fiji Pearl Association, to enhance the effectiveness of locally managed marine areas, integrated coastal management and land and sea management programmes, which will bring about meaningful income for local communities. Hunter added that CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri came to the UN to promote the sustainable programme.
“We want to preserve our Fiji marine ecosystems. This is critical for our planet especially in light of climate change and mitigating its impact. Warmer water makes sea life move to cooler temperatures and you end up with a vacuum of sea life. Pearl farms require pristine water conditions so any decline in water quality hits oysters first, so pearl farms are important regulators of water quality. We hope for tangible benefits as we become stewards of our seas,” Mr. Hunter said.
“This is about social and economic sustainability. We need to find a balance between creating marine protected areas and creating a way to provide income for the local communities. The aim is to create an internationally recognized product acknowledged as sustainable luxury, for buyers who know the product helps communities and the sea,” he concluded.