Saturday, May 12, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Land board
approves pearl
farm proposal

The operation for black
pearls would be the
first in Hawaii

By Diana Leone

A pearl farm planned for a 75-acre area off the Honolulu Airport Reef Runway has moved a step closer to reality.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources yesterday approved the proposal of Black Pearls Inc., a Big Island company.

Black Pearls' president, Dale Sarver, said his "best dream" of when the farm could begin operation would be in a year.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources must decide how to change the boundaries of a recreational thrill-craft area of 867 acres to remove the future pearl farm and give jet-skiers and others alternative space on the water. Thrill-craft operators had indicated a willingness to cooperate at a hearing in January, but details need to be worked out.

The company also needs to finalize a lease agreement with the department and gather the necessary investment capital, Sarver said.

The farm would be the first of its kind in Hawaii.

The company has a commercial black pearl farm in Majuro, the main atoll of the Marshall Islands, and an associated farm in the nearby atoll of Arno. It also is starting a pearl operation in Australia and has consulted with pearl farms in a number of Pacific Island nations.

The 50,000 or so inhabitants of the farm will be black-lip pearl oysters native to Hawaii. The pearls they produce can be pure white to silver, from purplish to red to black, said Sarver.

The company prize will be a gold-toned pearl it has developed at its research lab at the Natural Energy Laboratory in Kona and dubbed the Kona Gold strain. Although the company is working with genetic selection to encourage the type of pearls it wants, only part of the crop will be premium quality, Sarver said.

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