In an investigation of the potential for pearl production in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, changes in the physical and reproductive condition of the pearl oyster, Pinctada imbricata, were monitored for over 2 years. Using wild oysters gathered from close to the southern extent of the species' range in Port Stephens, NSW, a series of macroscopic and histological observations were made. Reproductive activity in P. imbricata was greatest from late spring to early autumn with oysters in poor reproductive condition during winter. Peaks in reproductive indices occurred in November 1998, March 1999, December 1999 and April 2000. Four indices of physiological condition were used: shell growth, byssal attachment, mantle thickness and mucoprotien layer. With the exception of the thickness and extent of the mucoprotein layer, these indices either showed little variation or the variation that occurred was not related to seasonal or reproductive changes. Changes in the mucoprotein layer were correlated with water temperature and suggest that this layer is metabolized during periods of high demand such as during gonadogenesis. Collectors deployed at two sites in Port Stephens demonstrated that spatfall occurs largely in the months of December and January following the spring and early summer peaks in reproductive activity (November 1998 and December 1999). Spatfall was not observed following the autumnal peaks (March 1999 and April 2000) in reproductive activity. Overall, reproductive patterns in P. imbricata are poorly suited to spat supply in Port Stephens. Farmers require spat in early spring (September) to allow maximum use of the 'growing' season (September-May). Reproductively capable oysters are not available from the wild until September and quantity of natural spatfall is too variable and occurs too late in the season (December-January). As a result, oysters are being conditioned in the hatchery in July, spawned in August and spat are supplied to farmers in mid September.
- Pearl oyster
- Pinctada imbricata