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Pearl History

Pearl Exports! Arno’s Really Lucrative Selling Point
(Included in the RRE 50th anniversary publication)

Mweitdrik Island, Arno Atoll, hosts a major fisheries – related business, but you won’t see much activity above sea level on this island.

But the Robert Reimers Enterprises black lip pearl oyster farm’s harvest of pearl with a sale value of about $40,000 in early 2000 is evidence that there is more than meets the eye at Mweitdrik Island.

Approaching this tiny island in the northwestern corner of Arno - at the tip of the smallest of Arno’s three lagoon - one sees dozens of plastic floats dotting the lagoon. The floats make nice resting spots for local birds, but they also hold up nets loaded with oysters in various stages of development.

The RRE pearl farm , which has been in operation since the mid- 1990’s is beginning to move out of the pilot, research stage and into stepped – up production. RRE invested in the pearl farm after RRE ‘s CEO Ramsey Reimers met with pearl oyster growers during a Marshall Islands trade mission to Australia and visited pearl farms in Australia, seeing the viability of this industry .

RRE has invested in pearls fully aware that it is an expensive, pains taking process to develop pearl oysters into a profitable business. The success of other South Pacific islands, combined with the studies and pilot phase growing of pearl oysters in the marshals that demonstrate pearl potential in the atoll environment of the Marshall Island, have convinced RRE that this will be a key business initiative for the future.

After more than two years working on Mweitdrik , pearl farm manager Frankie Pedro thinks he’s finally getting a handle on the pulse of his pearl oyster brood, including resolving some of the problems with predators that were causing a high mortality rate . “you can’t just say that because it works else where that it’s going to work here,” he said in mid- 2000. Experts often come in and advise the farm to handle the oysters a certain way based on experience in other parts of the Pacific. But Pedro thinks that local variations in water temperature, marine predators and environmental factors unique to Arno have to be taken into account instead of following a “blueprint” that someone has devised in another country.

Mweitdrik itself is nicely set up, with a kitchen and thatched roof hut next door for eating. There are a couple of workshops, and several small bungalows for housing Pedro and his family, and for visitors to the island. Small groups of visitors can easily be accommodated on Arno in two island – style, screened bungalows. Catchment tanks, toilets and showers – usually in short supply on the remote outer island are available. Solar panels provide lights and power for the HF radio and cellular phone that allows Pedro to communicate easily with Majuro.
“Frankie deserves most of the credit for what’s happening at the pearl farm”, said RRE's chief financial officer Peter Fuchs.

It takes about two years to grow a black lip oyster to the size where it produces a saleable pearl. The key for the Arno farm, said Pedro , is increasing its stock and number of spawning times a year so that it can be harvesting several times each year as the oyster mature. RRE plants to increase its oyster stock at Arno to at least 100,000. Once production reaches this level, RRE will look to Jaluit for possible expansion of the business. The company’s Majuro based aquaculture facility is also supporting the Arno pearl farm with spawning and grow of the oysters.

The pearl farm has also attracted the attention of overseas investors who have come out to visit the Arno pearl and see operation first hand.

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