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Press release Dec 18 2013

UMACO partners with Aus-Asia Global Resources HK The Directors of the combined entities of UMACO Australia (comprising UMACO Australia and UMACO Papua New Guinea) announce with much excitement a new partnership with Aus-Asia Global Resources Hong Kong Limited.

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Business Development Centre
P A P U A  N E W  G U I N E A

UMACO Pty Ltd – A Queensland, Australia Based Company:

Vested Interests Of:  National and International for the development of Milne Bay Papua New Guinea Marine Pearling Resources through UMACO (Australia) 


Attention Pearl Buyers
The historical past of South Sea pearl cultivation transformed the contemporary pearl business.

  Spherical and blister South Sea pearls were produced in Australia by William Saville Kent (1805-1908) Pinctada Maxima in Queensland in the early 1900s. It’s suggested that William could have stimulated the rise of perliculture in Japan, as described above.

South Sea pearls had been sourced from silver-lipped and gold-lipped, ’Pinctada Maxima' oysters off Papua New Guinea and Australian waters since the dawn of time. Indigenous fishermen had been diving for these naturally occurring South Sea pearl oysters for 1000's of years, consuming and trading their meat, shell and pearls for tribute.

By the late 1800s, the pure South Sea pearl had been depleted as a precious global resource. However in contrast, a technique was being unearthed off the north-eastern coast of Australia that would revitalize the South Sea pearl industry and manufacturing globally.

Kokichi Mikimoto from the Mikimoto Company had been engaged with the George family. This is the valuable history that Mr and Mrs George had been exposed to with respect to Kokichi Mikimoto. Mrs George (Yurie) is Japanese born accredited as a marine biologist. The British marine biologist, William Saville-Kent, served two posts as Australia's Commissioner of Fisheries, one in Queensland and one in Western Australia. In 1891, while on Queensland's Thursday Island, just south of the Islands of Samurai and Sariba, where the Georges live in Papua New Guinea, William Saville-Kent experimented with grafting that started the industry to flourish which was later handed on to others to refine the process.

William Saville-Kent demonstrated the growth of cultured pearls by grafting one oyster's mantle tissue, inserted with a nucleus of the shell, into another oyster's mantle. This triggered the formation of a pearl sack which made nacre covering the nucleus to form a spherical pearl.

Pioneering the method, William Saville-Kent, acting as scientist and Commissioner freely passed the approach onto other interested parties working in Australia's north-eastern pearl industry. At that time, Australia's pearl industry comprised of tens of thousands of people today, including Aboriginal Australians, Europeans, Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese; amongst who were Tatsuhei Mise and Tokishi Nishikawa. Kent Island News

Milne Bay Pearls: Samurai Island and Tagula Island Milne Bay Province

The Milne Bay area was once a productive fisheries sector, mostly targeting snappers, pelagic fish and prawns. Today, diving for sea cucumber is probably the most important fishery consideration. The region is abundant with all varieties of fish, tuna (yellow and blue-fin), crayfish, and prawns.

Amateur free divers retrieve sea cucumber stocks from depths down to 20 metres. In the 1970s Milne Bay became well known for its cultured pearls through the brilliant efforts of one dynamic pearl farmer, Dennis George, who centred operations around Pearl Island and Sariba Island.

At present our PNG Company “UMACO Reliance” (i.e. our management group), is reviving the industry by setting up pearl farms on neighboring islands, Tagula and Samurai Islands.

A local operator has a pearl farm located on one of the small islets about 30 minutes from Samurai Island. The farm was started in 1999 and from preliminary seeding trials with indications showing that the quality of pearls produced is quite high

View from Samurai Island towards Pearl Island where Dennis George was operating

Denis George’s “Pearl Island” also considered Sariba Island


The methods used to produce high-quality South Sea pearls require a considerable per ­pearl-oyster investment. Great care has to be taken to handle the pearl oysters gently and leave them out of water for as short a time as possible. The extra attention can pay off in some modern pearling farms, post-operative mortality has been reduced to only 3-5 percent, and about 60 percent of grafted pearl oysters produce saleable pearl.

Japanese Akoyas are often double nucleated, but they are always killed at harvest. In contrast, the larger Gold Lipped Pearl Oysters of PNG almost never receive two nuclei at once, but are virulent enough to withstand a second nucleation. At harvest time, each pearl oyster is remounted on the grafting apparatus, the first pearl is removed from the pearl sack, and a second larger bead is inserted. Because the pearl sack is already present, a second tissue graft is unnecessary.

Second pearls are usually larger, but lack the perfection of the first pearls, because of the maturity of the oyster and the existence of a substantial lesion in the pearl sack. Third and fourth pearls are planned under reinsertion techniques as would be expected however it has an effect on quality and morbidity rates.
Potentially a fifth round of mabe nucleation is possible in healthy Pinctada maxima, but such intensive use is not deemed practical

The UMACO pearl farms in PNG are to be developed by our own qualified professional pearl cultivators.

UMACO’s co-director of RMG is Jim Ferrier and his son in-law Nicholas George. Nicolas is also a member of UMACO in charge of the Pearl Farm Development. Nicholas’ mother was the designer and technical cultivator of the post original invention of the Mikimoto Pearling Cultivation technique and seeding. Today “Kokichi Mikimoto”, describes himself as the inventor of cultured pearls.

One has to honor the master “Kokichi Mikimoto”, as he is the first person that brought the industry into a world class all of its own by the design and hard work that he dedicated to the industry cultivated in its own right. However it is just as important to acknowledge that the quality of the Mikimoto Pearl is additionally enhanced with a class and beauty from cultivation of a better variety pearl with less morbidity as a result of Nicholas’s mother “Mrs Yurie George.


The pearls in the shell within the photo to the left are cultivated from our pearl beds. Mrs George developed a seeding technique that was taken from an organic seed of a specific variety of plant grown locally that made the pearl muscle irritation a better and more resistant pearl. The quality of the pearl grew amazingly faster and with better luster and size combined in a longer life span.

Mr George, Nicholas’s father, was also instrumental in the progress development and origination of the cultivation of a locally grown pearl however he has since passed away.

Together Nicholas’s mother and father worked towards better methods of introducing a particle into the flesh of the oyster to stimulate secretions of "nacre" around a pearl sack that build up countless microscopic repetitious nano-layers, creating a lustrous spherical pearl.

Nicholas has become a professional expert diver and cultivator with information handed down to him from his father and practiced by Nicholas ever since. Nicholas has the drive and desire to bring the UMACO Reliance “Aqua Cultured Pearl” industry into being at our pristine waters and marine environment where the worlds best pearls naturally grow at depth within the most diverse deep sea, ‘infectious free’ planktonic environment. It’s an Abyss where the water is deep dark and flushing with microscopic food for the pearls to thrive on and breed. It’s a place where the oyster’ nursery is undisturbed in the depths of a deep, dark grassy bottom where future hatchlings are carefully removed.

No other pearl industry any where in the world has an environment like the conditions for quality, quantity and size as is in our area. We will breed our pearls grown naturally in submarine global currents. These currents travel from North Pole to the equator passing over the deep volcanic cones of the sea floor, transforming fault plate margins where organisms thrive in the balanced warmth of a marine biosphere transversed by migrating food. It is finally deposited for pearl consumption where it’s un-interferedwith until harvest.



Pearl Farm Operations

The pearl farms will be centred on Tagula Island. The first task of the crew of the main vessel that will act as the mother-ship and the coastal barge on arrival at Tagula Island will be to establish a shore base. Included in these tasks will be installation of a power supply of 240 volts, communications radio base station, fresh water supply system and medical first aid station. This is timed to take 4 days, after which the mothership will leave for the first run collecting pearl shell.

Local labour, under supervision, will complete the tasks setting up the shore base station amongst the clans on Tagula Island, at the same time providing quarantine and security. The first pearl farm will comprise of 11 sections each containing up to 9,000 shells, at sites selected near each village.

Lines will be anchored at each of the preselected sites, at depths determined by water temperature, and currents which contain the food chain for the oyster. Pearl shell baskets holding the pearl shell and oyster, are ended and marked with floats.
Shell is collected by divers. A minimum of 3 but up to 6 will be required. They will initially work from local resources, but, depending on need may work from the mothership. Reference: ARCHIPELAGO – RMG-BUSINESS PLAN FOR A HUMANITARIAN PROJECT 33



The shell is collected from inside the reefs surrounding Tagula and islands close by.
Being paid by the shell collected, divers are conservatively expected to collect 300 shells per day, per man, working 6 days per week; i.e. 18000 per month of 20 diving days. Thus 108,000 shells
will be collected over the 6 months deployment.

In the largest of the perliculture ventures, virtually all operations are conducted at sea. Following collection, the pearl oysters are measured and counted, cleaned, packed into holding racks, and stored in offshore holding locations.


When needed, they are retrieved by divers on another ship. Relax­ation prior to grafting apparently requires no anesthetic; these pearl oysters gape naturally after spending overnight in a calm tank on
board the ship. In our operations nucleation may be performed on the laboratory ship or within company cultured areas specially designed for the purpose. (Some
by Japanese grafters).

The grafter's work, like the diver, is carefully tracked. In the end each pearl literally bears a pedigree of who handled it and when. Once nucleated, the pearl oys­ters in flat racks are transported immediately to underwater grounds where they lie flat on the bot­tom for three to five months, turned each day by divers to ensure correct positioning of the nucleus and even formation of the pearl sack.


To check the presence and position of the nucleus, the pearl oysters are X-rayed on the laboratory ship. Those that have rejected the bead are allowed to complete a keshi pearl, if one is detected, or they could be re-nucleated. Later, the pearl oysters are suspended from floating lines in near-shore culture beds, where they are cleaned frequently. The culture period usually lasts two years.


Assuming 75% are not suitable for seeding, this will provide 81,000 for pearl meat and shell.
Oversized and other shell unsuitable for seeding will be immediately set aside to be taken to Alotau for processing, and to be marketed as MOP shell and pearl meat.

Pearl Farm Husbandry
Pearl farm husbandry, as with any farming procedure, is essential but relatively straight forward for a pearl farm. Principal activities include shell cleaning, water monitoring, temperature observations, and ensuring adequate plankton in the currents for the food supply chain. Weather watch, especially for cyclones, is mandatory. With the approach of a cyclone, the baskets are lowered to the seabed.

Suitable shell will be placed upon the seabed at one of the sections of farm site for at least 14 days to recover from their ordeal of collection and transportation before being seeded, transferred into baskets and placed upon the anchor lines. Seeding is the job of a technician. Suitable personnel have been identified and no problems are anticipated in this regard. Seeding 25,000 shells will take up to 6 weeks. All technical plant and equipment needed for the professional operation of running a pearl farm has been identified will be purchased and transported to the farm site by the mothership.

Being in a pristine area unpolluted, problems with disease and parasites are not expected.


As their livelihood will depend upon the success of their section of the pearl farm, villagers can be certain to maintain close security watch on their section. This, plus the remote location of Tagula, will ensure security is paramount. The Head Diver, being experienced with pearl farming operations, will

Black Pearls 
Farming of black pearls commenced in the South Sea approximately 30 years ago. Cultured black pearls are grown in the Cook Islands, where farming began in 1986. 10,000 pearls were sold in 1991, reflecting the speed in which the industry can develop given the right growing climate. In 1998, it is claimed that French Polynesia‘s pearl industry in export sales raised
$A 192.5 million (say USD 95 million) from small, family run, one hut pearl farms suspended over the lagoon. .

Tagula Island Pearls Farms Located Inside the Red Border
These returns were obtained without the technology and expertise that will be applicable to South Pacific. The Louisiade Archipelago, in PNG, is on the same latitude as the Cook Islands. Tagula Island grows the black lip shell. Therefore UMACO intends to ensure there is a propensity of black lip grown. As previously stated, such pearls can command a premium of 33% on the world

Regional Industry – History
The pearling industry in Asia began in the 1850s when oyster beds of the naturally occurring (wild) pearl shell, Pinctada maxima, were discovered off Shark Bay, Australia. The shell was fished for its mother of pearl for use in buttons and inlays with the collection of natural pearls a welcome but extremely rare by-product of the industry.

For the next 50-80 years, the industry flourished, expanding across the coast of the Northern Territory, and the top end of Queensland and around to Cairns with the discovery of new oyster beds. By the early 1900s, it is estimated that Australia provided more than half of the world‘s pearl shell. By 1910, there were 400 luggers and 3,500 people fishing for pearl shell in Broome alone.

By the 1930s and 40s, the industry was in decline, with the Great Depression significantly reducing demand and the onset of World War II disrupting supply. By the 1950s, the industry virtually ceased to exist. The Northern Territory and Queensland oyster beds had been largely fished out, and fishing for shell had become uncommercial as plastic replaced mother of pearl in products.

Meanwhile, since the early 1900s, Japanese and Australian pearlers and scientists had been experimenting and developing pearl culturing techniques which were finally proving to be commercially viable. Australia‘s first pearl farm was established in 1956 at Kuri Bay, 200 kilometres north-west of Derby in Western Australia and was producing 60% of the world‘s finest South Sea Pearls by 1973. In the mid 1960s, the first pearl farm was established in the Northern Territory by Paspaley Pearls.

The 1970s and 1980s saw a rationalisation in the pearling industry in Australia as fluctuating demand for pearls, caused by movements in the Yen-Dollar exchange rate, prompted smaller farms to sell their operations to larger concerns.

The early 1980‘s saw the introduction of a license and quota system in Western Australia, limiting the number of wild shell which could be fished for pearl cultivation. This system was introduced into the Northern Territory in the late 1980‘s.

Pearl Culturing Process
The first step in pearl farming is to source Pinctada maxima pearl oyster shell in which to
cultivate pearls. Shell can either be sourced by drift divers from oyster beds occurring naturally in the wild (wild shell), or from hatchery shell grown out on farm sites for approximately 2 years (hatchery shell).

Once mature virgin shell has been sourced, they will be seeded during the seeding season between May to September of each year. Seeding involves each oyster being carefully opened by a skilled technician. A small incision is made in the gonad of the Oyster and in it is placed a nucleus and a piece of mantle tissue from another pearl oyster.
After approximately 2 years of shell husbandry and cultivation of the nucleated shell from the time of seeding, the shell will be harvested for pearls. Subject to selection criteria by the seeding technician, a second and usually larger nucleus can then be placed back into the developed pearl oyster sac and the cultivation process re-starts for another 2 years. Typically Oysters are not reseeded more than twice however it is possible to reseed up to 5 times.

Hatchery Shell
At present, we are not anticipating building a hatchery, for at least two years after commencement, but it will become necessary in due course to ensure that we can preserve the wild stocks.
Hatchery based operations, produce shell using the latest marine technology rather than relying on the natural resource of wild shell. The production of hatchery shell starts during the spawning season where Broodstock spawn in a controlled hatchery environment to produce Larvae which settle in tanks. Once the Larvae have grown into Spat of a certain size they are transferred out of the controlled hatchery environment and into the farm sea area in cages and panels. The Spat are grown out for approximately 2 years after spawning, at which time these shell will be mature enough to be seeded to produce pearls as set out in section 4.3.

World Production
Worldwide commercial production is made up of four main pearl varieties: South Sea, Akoya, Black and Freshwater: Pearl



Main Source


Size Range

South Sea







Cook Islands




Various types
of mussels (not oyster)




Total world pearl production is estimated to be approximately 1,000 - 1,200 tonnes in weight with a total wholesale value of approximately $750-$800 million.

South Sea Pearls are the largest pearl variety in the world typically ranging in size from 10mm to 20mm. Other South Sea Pearls (e.g. Indonesian) are the next largest in size followed by black pearls and Japanese akoya pearls. South Sea Pearls are also the most valuable pearls produced in the world based on their superior size, lustre, roundness, surface perfection and colour.

The prestige and quality of South Sea Pearls are reflected by the fact that Australian south sea pearls account for less than 1.0% of the world production by weight but nearly 30% by value. In comparison, the next most valuable variety, other south sea pearls (e.g. Indonesian), typically achieve approximately 60% of Australian Pearl prices. We are expecting higher prices for our higher quality South Sea Milne Bay Bion Abyss Pearls
It is anticipated that Tagula will produce pearls of a similar or better quality. The rest of world production by value is made up of other white/gold south sea

Farming  Procedure:

  1. Name of species:
    Pearl oysters
  2. Primary potential:
  3. Attributes for aquaculture/stock enhancement :
    • Well-established culture techniques.
    • Relatively simple culture techniques.
    • No feed input (nursery/grow-out) so reduced environmental impact.
    • Possible to collect culture stock (adults and juveniles) from the wild.
    • Well-established markets.
    • Range of products (shell, half and round pearls, meat).
    • High value product.
    • Ease of 'product storage and transport.
  4. Culture methods : Obtaining juveniles/seed from the wild
    • Spat (seed) can be collected from the wild using spat collectors.
    • Spat collectors can be made from a variety of materials (e.g. shade cloth, tree branches,   onion bags).
    • Spat collectors are immersed to coincide with major recruitment periods.
    • Spat are removed from collectors at a time to maximise size but minimise predation.
    • Spat collection uses simple low cost technology, is easy to manage and is suitable as a small-scale operation. Income could be generated by selling spat to pearl farms. It has low environmental impact and is suitable for women.
    • The major disadvantage is reliance on natural recruitment which can be unreliable.


  • Reproductively mature broodstock can be obtained from wild or culture stock.
  • Broodstock are induced to spawn using thermal stimulaion; eggs are fertilised using sperm within 60 minutes of spawning.
  • Fertilised eggs incubated at 30-50 per ml in lightly aerated 1-micron filtered seawater (24 h).
  • Incubation tanks are drained and larvae are retained on sieve mesh.
  • Larvae are stocked into culture tanks containing well aerated 1-micron filtered seawater at a density of 1-2 per ml.
  • Larvae are fed cultured microalgae at a density of 1,000-20,000 cells per ml, depending on age; amount of algae is increased with increasing larval size.
  • Water in larval culture tanks is changed (fully or partially) every 2 days.
  • Larvae large enough to be retained on a 170 micron screen are removed to settlement tanks containing spat collectors.
  • Larvae are recruited to collectors and retained in settlement tanks for a further 2 weeks.
  • Settlement tanks receive daily feeding and daily partial water change.
  • Spat collectors are removed to the ocean where they are left until the juveniles are large enough for removal (around 3 months of age).
  • Hatchery culture is costly, technically demanding and unsuitable for small-scale operations.
  • Advantages include: year-round production, independence from natural recruitment events and genetic manipulation. The latter may be important for developing oysters to produce larger pearls or pearls with "niche" colours.


  • Pearl oysters are cultured using simple low cost technology which is suitable for small scale operations and village based production.
  • Pearl oysters are cultured using simple low cost technology which is suitable for small scale operations and village based production.
  • The simplicity of pearl oysters grow-out results primarily from the fact that oysters feed on natural plankton so feed input is not required.
  • Lack of feed input considerably minimises environmental impacts relative to other aquaculture species. However, large areas dedicated to pearl oyster culture do represent some navigational hazard.
  • There is considerable potential for employing women directly in pearl oyster culture and in value-adding activities.
  1. Current production status:
  • Commercial production in French Polynesia, Cook Islands. French Polynesia currently producing 11 tonnes valued at US$165 million.
  • Small scale production in Solomon Islands, http://www.spc.int/aquaculture/index.php?option=com_countries&view=country&id=5Fiji Islands, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Federated States of Micronesia
  • Under development (research) - Kiribati, Tonga (half pearls/mabe).
  • Production problems include disease (through poor husbandry), predation (primarily by Cymatium spp. gastropods) and lack of trained personnel/technical expertise.
  1. Marketing:
  • There is considerable international enquiries and orders along with higher potential domestic opportunities for countries with significant tourist industries.
  • Pearls are an ideal export commodity, being small and lightweight yet of high value with no specific storage or transport requirements.
  • However, large increase in production of black pearls in French Polynesia has seen their value decrease from an average of USD77 per gram in 1986 to around USD13 per gram in 2000.
  • Quality control efforts in French Polynesia are likely to help stabilise the price and the market for cultured black pearls.
  • There is clear opportunity for niche markets for unusually coloured pearls.
    Given current competition, new entrants to the pearl market will need to maintain a high quality product.
  • There appears to be potential for mabe pearl (from Pinctada maxima) production in the Pacific.

Comparative advantages/disadvantages (risks) of producing the species in the Pacific:


    • Limited resources required for pearl oyster culture.
    • No food input required, minimizing environmental impacts and costs.
    •  Well-established markets and culture protocols.


  • Reliance on specialized technicians for pearl seeding.
  • Overproduction or increased production may depress product value and impact potential market and profits.
  • Lack of appropriate technical expertise in many Pacific nations.

Please take a moment to peruse the photographs and further interesting information in Appendix “A

Thank You

Company Name: For and on behalf of UMACO (Australia) Pty Ltd ACN 105 199 317
Address: 13 George Street, Cairns 4870, Queensland Australia
E-mail: umaco@bigpond.com
Telephone: +617 40545586
Fax No: +617 40337091


  1. International Joint Venture Agreement
  2. CTUA Agreement
  3. International Territorial Waters Application
  4. CTUA Signatories
  5. Letter of Confirmation: Correspondence Pearling