A blueprint for the future of Western Australia's $125 million a year pearling industry was announced today by Fisheries Minister Gordon Hill.
"The blueprint has been developed as guidelines under the Pearling Act, and will provide a clear direction to pearl farmers and the Fisheries Department for industry development," Mr Hill said.
Pearl farming licences, the production of pearl oysters in hatcheries, foreign investment in the industry, the control of fishing on wild stocks of oysters, and the siting of pearl farms are all covered by the new guidelines.
"The farming of South Sea Pearls is WA's most successful aquaculture venture, and it is crucial that we retain our position on the world market as a leading producer of high quality pearls," Mr Hill said.
"To do this successfully, and keep production costs down, the pearling industry must develop its expertise in hatchery and pearl oyster grow-out technology.
"One of the foreseeable threats to WA's market position is the growth of new pearl farming technology offshore.
"The new guidelines are designed to strike a balance between the further development of expertise in pearl oyster culture and husbandry, and the control of excessive pearl production which could adversely affect market prices.
"These measures are designed to ensure that Western Australia not only remains competitive on the world market for pearls in the current economic climate, but also has the capacity to maximise production if market circumstances change."
The new guidelines have been developed under the direction of the Pearling Industry Advisory Committee, and will also ensure that ownership and control of the industry remains in WA.
Future entrants to the pearling industry will be limited to a 49 per cent foreign shareholding. In addition, all principal office-holders and directors will have to be Australian residents.
Copies of the report are available from the Fisheries Department, 108 Adelaide Terrace, Perth 6008 - telephone 220 5333.