Cibjo, the World Jewellery Confederation, has underscored the promotion and development of a sustainable, community-based pearl farming sector in Fiji at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York.
Gaetano Cavalieri, president of Cibjo, joined a high-level delegation from the Republic of Fiji, led by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, to talk about sustainable pearling initiatives at the conference held from June 5 to 9.
The project will work to fulfil UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, relating to the health of the oceans, seas and marine environments, as well as provide sustainable economic and sustainable opportunities for the country’s citizens.
Among the members of the Fijian delegation were the country’s Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau and Justin Hunter, chairman of the Fiji Pearl Association. Cibjo has worked with the Fiji Pearl Association to formulate a plan for the development of a national, community-based pearl farming industry that will enhance the effectiveness of locally managed marine areas, integrated coastal management, and land and sea management programmes, while also creating meaningful employment and income-generating opportunities for communities involved in pearl farming.
The Ocean Conference, co-hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden and coincided with World Oceans Day, was intended to advance the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment, reversing the decline in the health of the earth's oceans and seas.
“There is one sector of the jewellery industry, where both the product and business associated with it are potentially sustainable, and that is cultured pearls,” said Cavalieri. “For unlike a mine, which has a finite life span, a pearl farm can continue producing indefinitely, on condition that it is responsibly managed. In other words, we have an asset that can be renewed and sustained, which in turn can act as a source of sustainable economic and social opportunity.”
The Public Private Partnership being proposed in Fiji offers the promise of building an industry, from the grass roots up, founded on a sustainable and valuable product that is supported by responsible and sustainable environmental practices, he continued.
“Built into the equation is a very positive element of co-dependency. Just as the potential economic and social benefits to the country are dependent upon a viable business model, the business model requires an economic environment in which all stakeholders feel they are benefiting. The one goes hand in hand with the other. And this is all only possible over the long-term if the marine environment is responsibly managed. It is the very epitome of a win-win-win situation,” added Cavalieri.
The Fijian plan proposes the development of community-owned pearl farms, which will become “stewards of the oceans,” while providing opportunities for coastal villages, especially for women and young people. The Fijian pearl oyster is officially classified as an indicator species and is well known to be environmentally sensitive. Any decline in water quality has a direct impact on the oyster's health, reducing the quality of the pearl that is produced. Strict environmentally responsible standards are necessary, therefore, to ensure the economic viability of the project.