Fiji’s pearl pioneer blazes a trail in sustainable high-end
Savusavu (Fiji), June 8: (June 8 is World Oceans Day). From the tranquil environs of the country’s second largest island Vanua Levu, Justin Hunter’s uniquely hued pearls in green, blue, chocolate, aubergine, gold, burgundy and more, are not simply selling Fiji’s story to the world, but setting an example for promoting sustainable luxury among ethical consumers, therefore offering a push to the worldwide blue economy.
“Everytime we offer a pearl, we sell the story of Fiji,” Hunter informed IANS here at his workshop where his workers and service technicians were hectic cleaning oysters and drawing out brand-new pearls– just a little part of the labour intensive procedure of pearl farming.
“I am very passionate about pearls being viewed as sustainable and supportive to the communities that are a part of managing marine biodiversity. When you buy a Fiji pearl, a customer needs to seem like they are buying our oceans and in the long-term health of our world,” stated Hunter, a marine biologist.
Inning accordance with a UN report, it is approximated that fisheries and aquaculture contribute USD100 billion annually and about 260 million tasks to the international economy.
Hunter’s contribution towards this started in 1999 when he returned house to Fiji from the US to establish J. Hunter Pearls Fiji by producing pearls in distinctive hues, which despite a small yearly output, has handled to put the brand name and Fiji on the world pearling map.
He said Fiji in itself does not actually have pearl oysters, but the size and nacre colour of its oyster are an asset.
“We have to make our own infants, which is really difficult and technical, but that enables us to bring attributes and colours that fetch the best prices,” said Hunter, discussing how from the time of blending sperm and egg, seeding and getting a pearl can take near to 5 years.
For curious guests, there’s an opportunity to visit the pearl farm via a short glass bottom boat ride away from the small-town community here to see pearl oysters at different stages of development. These are suspended on 200 metre long lines that run 3 to 5 metres below the ocean’s surface.
Cyclone Winston in 2016 came as a blow.
“We lost a great deal of environment lines and young infant oysters that must have been producing pearls for us this year and in 2015. This year will be our tiniest production since 2005. However that’s when the realisation of climate change and securing the environment started making all the more sense to me,” Hunter added.
His pearl farms supply tasks for regional individuals, and he feels therein lies the essence of his business.
“We have 50 individuals full-time and over a 100 who work part-time. When you can reveal financial return with something from so sustainable, and people understand there’s a connection in between the health of oysters and pearl quality, they become what you call environmental stewards of the sea.
“They are the ones who now want to repair contamination and safeguard our ocean, which is the requirement of the hour in climate modification.”
High-end comes at a cost, and Hunter guarantees he charges right.
A pearl pendant from the brand would be no less than USD1,000. Something uncommon and big may even offer at a list price of USD70,000.
Hunter, who hopes Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio– an ecological activist– promotes his pearls at some point, states keeping the cost high is the way to connect to ethical customers who comprehend sustainable luxury.
“Let’s price the brand high, inform them why it’s costly and after that let the customer choose. The ethical consumer will invest and pay a lot more for what they know is being done right, has an excellent story and is helping individuals,” stated Hunter, who is currently dealing with the European and American market.
India has been a difficult market for Hunter, who doesn’t believe in mass production.
“India and the Middle East are conventional markets where they still desire natural pearls, which remains in one out of 10,000 oysters perhaps … But then you’re eliminating 10,000 oysters for it,” he rued.
(The writer’s journey is at the invite of Tourist Fiji. Radhika Bhirani can be called at firstname.lastname@example.org)