Pearl oyster health management

FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 503

Pearl oyster health management
A manual

Melba G. Bondad-Reantaso
Fishery Resources Officer (Aquaculture)
Aquaculture Management and Conservation Service
Fisheries and Aquaculture Management Division
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department
Rome, Italy

Sharon E. McGladdery
Aquatic Animal Health Division
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Ottawa, Canada


Franck C.J. Berthe
Animal Health and Welfare Panel
European Food Safety Authority
Parma, Italy

Rome, 2007

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ISBN 978-92-5-105896-1

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© FAO 2007

Bondad-Reantaso, M.G.; McGladdery, S.E.; Berthe, EC.J.
Pearl oyster health management: a manual
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 503. Rome, FAO. 2007. 120p.


The pearl oyster industry is a growing multibillion dollar sector of mollusc aquaculture. Pearl farming occurs throughout Australasia, the Middle East and South America. Few species of molluscs possess the ability to produce pearls of gem quality. The South Sea pearl oyster is one of them. Pearl production in the wild is an unpredictable and uncontrolled event which human intervention, through pearl culture, has progressively overcome by improving culture practices. Farming mother-of-pearls shares commonalties with edible mollusc aquaculture. However, the endproduct, pearl production, is unique to this sector. In aquatic production, heal issues are of utmost importance; pearl production is based entirely upon health. The pearl itself is a product of the oysters immune defences as a response to soft-tissue irritation. Exploited stocks receive frequent handling stresses which often predispose farmed animals to infection and diseases. Therefore, the importance of health management for pearl oysters is paramount. Today, most disease problems are caused by opportunistic pathogens taking advantage of oysters weakened by the stress of handling, including pearl surgery and sub-optimal growing conditions. Except for the mass mortalities experienced in Japan, the pearl oyster industry have not yet faced the types of epizootics which has impacted mollusc culture elsewhere in the world. Development of the industry will, inevitably, lead to increased risk of disease introduction, spread or emergence. Against such an unwanted future, health management is the critical defence line.

The objectives of this technical paper are to: (i) review pearl oyster mortalities and disease problems in order to help design programmes aimed at reducing the risks from diseases; and (ii) provide technical guidance to pearl oyster farmers and the industry on management of pearl oyster health so that sector development will be sustainable not only in providing huge employment to communities where pearl farms are located but also contributing to maintain environmental integrity. Pearl oyster farming can serve as environmental sentinels recognizing the fact that pearl oysters thrive only in pristine environment.

This publication contains three parts. Part 1 consists of pearl oyster health the current interest in it and an overview of the cultured marine pearl industry. Pan 2 on pearl oyster health management consists of seven sections, namely: (a) introduction; (b) general information on husbandry and handling, hatchery production, introductions and transfers; (c) disease diagnostic protocols dealing with field collections of samples, gross external examination, gross internal examination and laboratory protocols; (d) health zonation; (e) disease outbreak protocols; (f) national strategies on aquatic animal health; and (g) references. Certain countries in the pearl oyster producing regions have acquired a great deal of experience in health management of cultured species. Experiences from Australia, the Cook Islands, Japan, the French Polynesia, the Philippines, China, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea are included in Part 3 which also contains a general review of pearl oyster mortalities and disease problems.


Preparation of this document  (Download pdf 623 kb)
Abbreviations and acronyms


     1.1  Why the interest in pearl oyster health?  (Download pdf 734 kb)
            Sharon E. McGladdery

     1.2  Overview of the cultured marine pearl industry
            Paul C. Southgate
  Introduction  (Download pdf 510 kb)
  Silver-lip/gold-lip pearl oyster, Pinctada maxima

  Black-lip pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera  (Download pdf 691 kb)
  Akoya pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata

  Winged pearl oyster, Pteria spp.  (Download pdf 670 kb)
            Sharon E. McGladdery, Melba G. Bondad-Reantaso and Franck C.J. Berthe

     2.1  Introduction  (Download section 2.1 – 2.2 pdf 107 kb)
  2.1.1 Purpose, approach and target audience
     2.2  General
  2.2.1 Husbandry and handling
  2.2.2 Hatchery production
  2.2.3 Introduction and transfers
     2.3  Disease diagnostic protocols  (Download section 2.3pdf 775 kb)
  2.3.1 Field collection of samples
  2.3.2 Gross external observations
  2.3.3 Gross internal observations
  2.3.4 Laboratory protocols
     2.4  Health zonation  (Download section 2.4 – 2.5 – 2.6 – 2.7 pdf 149 kb)

     2.5  Disease outbreak investigation procedure

     2.6  National strategies on aquatic animal health

     2.7  References



     3.1  Review of pearl oyster mortalities and disease problems  (Download pdf 494 kb)
            J. Brian Jones
  Infectious diseases and parasites
  Diseases with non-infectious aetiology
  Management options
     3.2  The Cook Islands experience: pearl oyster health investigations  (Download pdf 770 kb)
            Ben Diggles, P. Mike Hine and Jeremy Carson
  Pearl oyster health investigations
     3.3  The Australian experience: pearl oyster mortalities and  (Download pdf 476 kb)
            disease problems
            J. Brian Jones
  History of the industry
  Disease issues
  Western Australian pearl oyster health management
     3.4  The Japanese experience: pearl oyster mortalities and constraints  (Download pdf 367 kb)
            J. BKatsuhido T. Wada
  History of fishery of pearls in Japan
  Parasites and pathogens
  Fouling organisms
  Red tide
  Mass mortality
     3.5  The French Polynesian experience   (Download pdf 332 kb)
            Franck C.J. Berthe and Jean Prou
  Outbreaks of mass mortality
  Main pathogens recorded in French Polynesia
  Health management
     3.6  Pearl oyster health: experiences from the Philippines,China,
            the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea
            Melba G. Bondad-Reantaso, Sharon E. McGladdery, Daisy Ladra and Wang Chongming
  Abstract  (Download pdf 714 kb)
  The Philippines experience

  The Chinese experience  (Download pdf 811 kb)
  The Persian Gulf experience
  The Red Sea experience
Back Cover  (Download pdf 171 kb)