UN Ocean Conference Sustainable Pearl Farming in Fiji 1

Delivering On The 2017 World Ocean Conference Sustainable Development Goals

This weeks United Nations World Ocean Conference, co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden, takes place at the UN Headquarters in New York. Coinciding with this, Thursday 8th June is designated as “World Oceans Day”. In this article we see how Civa Fiji Pearls will do our bit to commit and deliver on this years conference theme:  “To conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”

Climate change and it’s effects are very real and noticeable for many small island nations in  the South Pacific, and Fiji is no exception. Generally, such islands possess fewer resources to fight increased global pollution and the downstream hazards that result, such as more frequent and violent storms, rising seas, coastal erosion, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching. With a couple of notable exceptions the larger more resourceful nations are taking steps to minimise future climate change brought about by human activity, and assist the smaller nations to do likewise – the aim to limit and possibly reverse the changes already apparent.

At Civa Fiji Pearls environmental protection has been a top priority since our inception. After all, our livelihood is dependent on a healthy oceanic environment. Today we reiterate our commitments and deliverable actions relevant the 2017 World Ocean Conference theme of sustainability.

Civa’s Sustainability Commitments

Our four key sustainability commitments

  • We are committed to Pearl Farming Best Practice
  • We will strive to be a driving force for the sustainable development of our local communities
  • We aim to achieve long term profitability with long term environmental protection
  • We will be an educative force for the development of sustainable aquaculture in Fiji
Common Pearl Farming Bad Practices

Bad pearl farming practices adversely affect the environment and brings the pearl farming industry into disrepute. The Tahitian and Cook Island pearl industries are clear examples of locations where bad pearl farming practices are seriously affecting lagoon environments:

  • Bio-fouling pollution from pearl oyster cleaning processes chokes the capacity of the lagoons to grow quality oysters for pearl production. Smaller, weaker, disease-prone pearl oysters plague the Tahitian and Cook Island Pearl industry.
  • Translocation of pearl oysters seriously threatens lagoons health, and inadequate quarantine procedures spread disease.
  • Spat collecting is the process of collecting young oysters for pearl production. Locating spat collection in close proximity to the pearl farm will result in Inbreeding and weak pearl oysters.

Even though the Fijian Pearl Industry is young and very small, bad farming practices have already affected some sectors of Fiji. Fortunately there is still time to turn the tide.

Working with the Local Community

In previous press releases we have highlighted our work with the local community through the Vanua Trust of Laucala who represent the interests of local fishing rights owners. Initiatives to date include spat collection activities and Giant Clam farming trials on Qamea, and the distribution of 2.5% of Civa Fiji Pearls revenue to the community. A new initiative is now underway, also on Qamea, as part of our 2017 actions and deliverables.

Walking Hand-in-Hand: Sustainability and Profitability

Our oceans are the geese that lay our golden eggs. Kill the oceans and our supply of golden eggs dwindles to zero. Zero golden eggs means zero resources to sponsor, train, facilitate and grow additional small to medium scale sustainable aquaculture businesses with our local communities.

Short-sighted approaches to pearl farming damage the environment and limit future growth potential. Taking the long view creates a virtuous circle of sustainability, profitability, distribution of wealth, and growth.

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Our Sustainability Actions and Deliverables

Our 5 key sustainability deliverables and actions:

  • Continue to select translocated pearl oysters only from disease free areas
  • Commence recycling of ALL bio-fouling from pearl oyster cleaning via conversion to organic composted fertilizer for use on organic-certified farmlands
  • Locate all spat collecting grids a minimum distance of 5 nautical miles up current from the pearl farming sites
  • Provide technical assistance and training to implement a community based Half Pearl Farm by the end of 2017 (see below)
  • Convert the remaining outboard fleet from 2 stroke to more environmentally friendly 4 stroke engines by the end of 2018
Civa Fiji Pearls to Establish Half-Pearl Farm on Qamea

Villagers from Qamea will very soon benefit from the establishment of a pearl farm in their waters. Civa (Fiji) Pearls Ltd is partnering with the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to establish a Half-Pearl (also called Mabe) farm in Qamea. The first half-pearl harvest will be in 2018 with annual subsequent harvests. An initial production target has been fixed at 2,500 half-pearls a year.

This research is part of a collaborative project between ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) and the Ministry of Fisheries to support sustainable development of a pearl and pearl-shell handicraft sector in Fiji. Civa (Fiji) Pearls ltd will provide the oysters used for half-pearl production at Qamea as well as some of the training and monitoring for this project. The Vanua Trust of Laucala will manage the farm through their womens group.

Professor Paul Southgate from University of the Sunshine Coast and Project Leader for the ACIAR project said “Community collection of juvenile oysters generates income for the community and provides improved supply of oysters to Fiji’s round pearl farms. So far, successful collection and sale of juvenile oysters has occurred at more than 15 communities across Fiji. These communities can use some of the oysters they collect to produce half-pearls for further income generation. The ACIAR project has so far assisted a number of communities across Fiji to produce half-pearls, including the Raviravi Ladies Group, Natuvu Ladies Group, Ravita Ladies Group and Ratu Nemani (Vanua Levu), and the Namarai Youth Group (Viti Levu). The new farm at Qamea will be the sixth half-pearl farm established during the project and the first in Taveuni. Community production of both juvenile oysters and half-pearls supports income generation and employment in remote areas of Fiji, and provides training opportunities for women and youth.”

Civa Fiji Pearls is extremely happy to partner with USC and ACIAR on this project. A well organised Fishing Rights Owners group through the Vanua Trust of Laucala provides  good governance and accountability. Civa has worked with the Vanua Trust of Laucala for 3 years now and the relationship continues to strengthen.

All parties involved – Civa, the Trust, fishing rights owners, communities and individuals – are deeply committed to sustainable development for the long term.

As our projects list grows and more relationships develop we all endeavour to meet the goals of the 2017 World Ocean Conference, and be an example for others to follow in and beyond Fiji. And, of course, well beyond 2017 !!

Related Links

UN Ocean Conference Home

World Oceans Day

University of the Sunshine Coast

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Civa Fiji Pearls meets Aquatec International, First export to Japan

Press Release: Civa Fiji Pearls Commences Exports To Japan

Civa Fiji Pearls Ltd is pleased to announce its first export sale of pearls to Aquatec International Ltd, Japan.

Aquatec International Ltd Chairman, Mr Masakazu Nishimura, visited Taveuni last week with his team, completing a tour and inspection of all premises including Civas’ Pearl Farm and Giant Clam Hatchery

Both parties discussed future business and further development of the Fiji pearl industry.

Civa Fiji Pearls representatives will pay a reciprocal visit to Aquatec International in Japan during March 2017 to strengthen ties between the two companies, gain additional aquaculture business insights, and enhance pearl farming technical knowledge.

Civa Fiji Pearls meets Aquatec International, First export to Japan

Aquatec International visiting Taveuni From left to right: Viliame Eriki, Atsushi Koizumi, Masakazu Nhisimura (Chairman, Aquatec International Ltd), Claude Michel Prevost (Director Civa (Fiji) Pearls Ltd), Kali Rabuka (Taveuni District Office)

Civa Fiji Pearls was founded in 2007 and has been producing pearls since 2010.

For further comment contact:

Claude Michel Prevost (Civa Fiji Pearls): 9356168
Kali Rabuka (Taveuni District Office): 8880026

Anticipation and Elation: The Happy Pearl Farmers of Fiji

Exactly nine months ago we had just taken a battering from Cyclone Winston and were picking up the pieces of our (apparently) mobile home and the wreckage of the implant shed at the Taveuni pearl farm. In Winstons’ wake we counted our losses, cancelled the April harvest, and let the remaining oyster stock lie, with the belief that extra time in the water would lead to better results for the October harvest.

Counting the Cost

Farmers on the land were similarly counting there own lost crops and lost opportunities of income. Our local market stalls, usually vibrant with the colors of fresh fruit and vegetables were either empty or severely depleted of produce for many months.

A whole season of time, effort and income had gone with the wind.

Fortunately, nature is as resilient as it is destructive. Within a few weeks a spurt of new growth cloaked the island in fresh shades of green, and within a few months the landscape showed few signs of the damage previously inflicted. For many villages on the island, however, the path to recovery has been longer, slower, and in many cases still very much ongoing.

With the huge amount of clean up, repairs, and rebuilding, plus multiple ongoing projects, the time has flown by and yet that day in February now seems rather distant. The disappointment of the delayed April harvest has been countered by anticipation and excitement in the lead up to the October haul.

On the opening day we raised the first oysters from the lines with fingers crossed.

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Counting the Harvest

One by one we went through a well-drilled process – open, harvest, clean, implant, and return to the lines along with freshly seeded juveniles. Within the first day it was clear that April delay and extra time was worth the wait.

Over the next 3 weeks we raised 4,500 oysters from the lines, and the results were extraordinary: a 68% rate of return – over 3,000 marketable pearls !!

Not only pearls in great numbers, but pearls with fantastic color and incredible luster.

The Ocober 2016 harvest is – by some margin – our best harvest since we began operations.

We can only guess, but Winston may have blown some good fortune our way in the end by stirring up the mix in the lagoon to generate a healthy spurt of growth similar to that seen landside.

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“Always great to harvest…. but then it comes with a bit more work and headaches afterward; grading and deciding what stays and what goes to export. I love these problems!”
– Claude Prevost

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Happy Farmers!

Around half of the crop has been set aside for the export market with the rest retained for local sales of loose pearls, jewelry and other accessories at the Boutique in Matei. Given the popularity of our sneak-peek pictures on our Facebook page we are looking forward to some very good sales !

With similar results for our planned harvests during 2017 we will offset the cyclone losses and recovery costs incurred this year, and with new juvenile stock kicking in we expect the pearl farming aspect of the business to return to growth again in 2018.

So, with our pearl baskets bursting at the seams with color we move towards the end of the year as very happy farmers. Our market ladies are looking much happier too – their stalls are also awash with color once again !

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Thanks for visiting – remember to follow our Facebook page for more updates and project news !!

Civa Fiji Pearls Impant Shed Rebuild

Expanding Civas’ Spat Collection and Pearl Farming Activities

A core part of our values at Civa Fiji Pearls is the belief that reinvesting in communities is crucial for mutual long term growth. This means going above and beyond our legal obligations with government bodies and going the extra mile to promote good relations with traditional land and fishing rights owners.

When we began operations 8 years ago we signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the traditional owners. Fishing ceased within the farm boundaries in return for compensation, jobs, and training within the local community. An additional benefit is that although fishing grounds are reduced in size local fish stocks increase as a result of the protected area – a great result for communities sourcing fish for food and income from the reefs and oceans.

The long term goal is for communities to gain knowledge of pearl farming processes enabling them to create their own farms in the future should they wish to do so, whilst our own business maintains a minimum impact on their traditional lifestyle.

Four mataqali (Fijian clan or landowning unit) share the benefits of partnership; Viniu, Waisoki, Vunivesi and Lekutu from Bouma District in Taveuni. In total, more than FJ$60,000 has been paid out so far by Civa Fiji Pearls by way of compensation, leases and scholarships.

Expanding Operations and Partnerships

These benefits and profits are now set to be shared wider subsequent to a new MOU signed this week between Civa Fiji Pearls and the Vanua Trust of Laucala. The MOU covers the usage of a new 150 hectare area of water for spat collecting and pearl farm expansion. The agreement secures the long term development of our aquaculture ventures here on Taveuni.

Jone Fifita Rakesa, chairman of the Vanua Trust of Laucala says:

“We have been doing pearl oyster spat collecting for the last two years successfully. This project started very slowly with help from the fisheries department but now is growing out by itself. Partnering with Civa Fiji Pearls Ltd who want to develop the resource in a sustainable manner with us is the way forward. They have good knowledge and are willing to share for the long term benefit of all. We are custodian of this resource and we must, for the sake of our children, develop it while protecting it.”

Sustainable Spat Collection

Spat collecting is the process of collecting natural oyster larvae and rearing them until they are old enough for implanting and pearl production.

The spat collecting site secured by the MOU is one of few spots in the Northern Division consistently producing good quality oysters in high enough quantity. As a result Civa Fiji Pearls can operate sustainable spat collection and not deplete natural reserves.

The oysters will be used at Civa Fiji Pearls’ Wailoa farm, Taveuni, with a first crop of pearls anticipated in 2019.

All of this is further good news for Civa Fiji Pearls after the damage caused by TC Winston:

– our implant shed rebuild is complete
– recent pearl harvest quality is excellent
– the Boutique in Matei is faring well with both locals and tourists

Stay tuned for more news on these and other projects in our pipeline. Until then, thanks for reading and by all means contact us directly with any queries regarding our unique Fiji pearls.

Links

Fiji Sun News Article

Please note that Pearl Farm Tours are now scheduled to restart in 2017.

The Vanua Trust of Laucala is the legal body representing the 3 Yavusa, namely Nasovu, Qaraniya’u and Naqelelevu. Representatives of each Yavusa make up the Vanua Laucala Trust. One of Trusts’ roles is to work with investors and developers using Qoliqoli and other resources. The Trust oversees one of the largest Qoliqoli areas in Fiji.

Matangi Private Island Reef Rebuild (1)

Matangi Island Coral Reef Rebuild

After the damage suffered at the hand of TC Winston above and below the water, Matangi Island Resort in association with Civa Fiji Pearls is building a coral garden facility to produce between 8 and 10 tons a year of live coral in a serious effort to reconstruct reef systems around the island.

In our last post we described our personal ordeal with Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston and its devastating effect on many parts of Taveuni. Homes and business’s suffered major damage, including our own home and the implant shed in Vurevure Bay. Thankfully we survived intact, and like many others here occupied ourselves with rebuilding and repair programs in an effort to return to business as usual.

Civa Fiji Pearls Implant Shed Rebuild

Hard Times for Coral Reefs

Whilst most of the famous dive sites and deeper reefs around Taveuni, Qamea, Matangi and Laucala fared well, other areas did suffer significant damage. Civa Fiji Pearls is committed to preserving and protecting the natural environment – after all it is key to sustaining our business – and we already had an ongoing coral gardening project in place with Makaira Resort, just off shore at Matei.

Now, in association with Matangi Private Island Resort, we are stepping up the scale to give a significant boost to reef recovery.

Coral reefs propagate naturally very slowly. The reefs surrounding our islands were created over the course of thousands of years, yet they are extremely fragile. Natural disasters and climate change take their toll in a relative blink of an eye. The Makaira project, initiated after the devastation of Cyclone Thomas, can not supply sufficient new coral alone to reseed the reefs pummeled once again by Cyclone Winston. The project with Matangi will significantly increase new coral output, creating four to five thousand coral seedlings per year.

The Project Sponsors

Along with Matangi and Civa, the project is fully supported by the Vanua Trust of Laucala. Some words from each of the key project sponsors…

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Jone Fifita, Chairman of the Vanua Trust of Laucala, representing the Traditional Fishing Rights Owners says:

“For us at the Vanua Trust of Laucala, the development of our resources must be done in a sustainable manner. Working with Matangi Island Resort is always a great experience for us because their approach is always about long term development. We always feel from them a genuine concern about the environment in which they work. This coral rebuild project is just one other example of their dedication to the environment.”

Claude Michel Prevost, owner of Civa (Fiji) Pearls Ltd says:

“When Christene contacted us with this idea, we felt pretty confident that we could help. We have already helped Makaira resort in Taveuni 2 years ago with a similar project and we are still working with them to perfect the process. Now the challenge at Matangi is quite bigger, it will involve growing between 2000 and 2500 new coral seedlings every 6 months to 1-2 kg size before they are replanted in the reef. In three to five years from now, their reef systems will be completely different.”

Matangi Private Island Reef Rebuild (1)

Civa’s Bright Future

Despite Cyclone Winston and our recent personal losses, at Civa we are extremely positive about the future with a number of short, medium and long term projects progressing well:

– our Boutique in Matei is open and proving very popular
– very soon our pearl farm tours re-open after repairs and rebuilding
– the Makaira coral gardening project continues
– the larger scale coral gardening project with Matangi is confirmed and progressing
– and, as noted by Christene, another joint venture is in the pipeline with Matangi to commence a Giant Clam Hatchery

We have a strong desire to collaborate effectively with other local business’s (Makaira, Matangi, and our resort partners are examples) coupled with genuine respect for the environment, respect for local land and fishing rights owners, and respect for the community.

Combining this desire and respect into real world projects promises benefits for all involved, and we are very happy to be where we are now.

We will share more details regarding the Giant Clam Hatchery in a future post, so stay tuned !! Don’t forget you can follow us on our Facebook page too for additional photo and status updates in between blog posts.

Civa Fiji Pearls vs Tropical Cyclone Winston (6)

Tropical Cyclone Winston: Surviving the Fury

Greetings to all of you around the world who have been so kind as to ask about our well-being during and after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, one of the strongest cyclones in history that smashed its way through Taveuni and other parts of Fiji on 20th February 2016. Immediately following the cyclone communications all over the island were severely disrupted, and at this time we are still reinstating our own Wifi internet and mobile services, so sincere apologies from us for being unable to respond individually to all your enquiries. Most importantly we can confirm that both Danielle, myself, all our staff, and their families are all safe and sound, although somewhat battered after the experience. The pearl farm under the water is largely intact, however the over-water implant shed was badly damaged and will require some significant work to reinstate it to its former photogenic glory. The recently opened Boutique in Matei suffered no damage.

From a personal perspective 20th February was a day neither of us wish to experience again. The eye of the storm passed over the southern half of Taveuni, about 30km away from our residence in Matei. Those close to the eye were subject to windspeeds that were a shade shy of 300km/h, 20-30 foot tidal waves along the coastlines, and six inches of rain per hour.

In most properties the bathroom is one of the safest rooms in the house to take shelter during natures fury, and this is where we bunkered down to hopefully see the storm out. Winston, however, had other ideas. Every part of the house above the main flooring was systematically torn away by a thunderous onslaught. Our refuge in the bathroom became a perilous prison when one of the main support posts for the property crashed through the ceiling and brought the walls down around us. However, we were unable to move to a new place of “safety”, wherever that may have been, as the winds exerted so much force on the collapsed walls they could not be moved. All we could do was pray. After what seemed an eternity semi-exposed to these unbelievable conditions the wind finally swung around causing a wall to shift enough for us to make an exit. Having narrowly escaped relatively unscathed from the collapsing post that fell directly between us the threat now came from the further disintegration of the property and flying debris – splintered timbers snapped like toothpicks, roofing iron capable of decapitation, and all manner of branches and vegetation ripped from the gardens and surrounding rainforest.

Thankfully the switch in wind direction marked the passing of the eye. After the slow and steady build-up that had begun in the early morning through to the peak intensity in the early afternoon, the back side of the storm passed quite quickly and were able to venture outside and begin assessing the immediate damage.

In short, our home was totally destroyed along with fixtures, fittings and appliances. Most of our personal belongings damaged beyond repair or disappeared never to be found.

For those would be “storm chasers”, this is the power of a Category 5 cyclone – a force to be reckoned with and not taken lightly. Around Fiji Tropical Cyclone Winston left at least 43 people dead. Large parts of the population reside in properties much less robust than ours, and homes such as these that lay in the path of Winston – in some cases entire villages – were wiped off the map. Amongst this destruction, three of our staff also had their homes completely destroyed.

For the last two weeks our time has been completely consumed by personal recovery, housing recovery, and beginning the business recovery. Although this episode was highly traumatic for us both we have come through it without physical injury. We have partially renovated and moved to an alternative residential property on the same block of land, replaced essential household items, and our farm stocks are recoverable despite some losses.

Like us, Taveuni as whole is also recovering. The people here are strong and resourceful, supplies are now reaching us, villages and infrastructure are being rebuilt and repaired, resorts and stores are returning to business as usual, the natural landscape will likely transform back to normality at astonishing speed. Below the water the reefs and ocean life have fared exceptionally well.

One great positive for us is that our Boutique in Matei came through Winston with no damage, and our stocks are good.

We still have the most beautiful pearls in the world.

We encourage you to visit.

Taveuni is open for business.

And we are still here.

Please note that due to the damage at the implant shed Civa Fiji Pearls farm tours are suspended until 1st July 2016

Civa Fiji Pearls Boutique Opening Taveuni-23

Civa Fiji Pearls Taveuni Boutique Opens for Business

Claude and Danielle, owners of Civa Fiji Pearls, are pleased to announce the opening of a brand new boutique store on Taveuni !!

The new boutique is located in Matei, approximately 500 yards from the airport, convenient for arriving and departing visitors, local resort guests, vacation home visitors and rental guests, as well as local residents. The new boutique will add to Civa’s on-island presence alongside the pearl farm and Taveuni resorts stocking Civa Fiji Pearls.

“As our business has grown we have seen an increase in local demand, so this is a natural progression progression for us. As well as adding value to our business, it is good for Taveuni – there is currently a lack of good quality pearls available through retail outlets locally. This complements our export auction sales, and also business through our resort partners here on the island.” – Claude

Civa Fiji Pearls are also available at the following resort partners on Taveuni, Qamea and Vanua Levu:

  • Matangi Private Island Resort
  • Taveuni Dive Resort
  • Aroha Taveuni Beachfront Bures
  • The Remote Resort

Approximately 50% of Civa’s export quality pearl harvest will now be set aside for local sales:

“Our initial target is to reserve at least half our pearls for local sales. The quality will be consistent with our current export pearls – exceptionally high, with the full range of beautiful colours. If the demand is as strong as we expect it to be, then a higher percentage will be put aside to cater for the local business.” – Claude

Exports will continue through Civa’s European auction partner, with the boutique and local resorts as exclusive retail outlets.

The boutique will feature a range of products with prices to suit everybody – all in Fiji’s famous kaleidoscope of colours. Loose pearls, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and pendants are amongst the items in stock.

Stop by the boutique and see the wonderful items at your leisure. Visitors are welcome to sit and have a chat over pieces of interest, advice on gifts, discuss custom items or orders, or just learn more about Civa Fiji Pearls.

Products can be made to order if required, just ask if we don’t have an item in your colour !!

The boutique will be open Monday to Friday 8am-4pm, and Saturday’s 8am-12pm.