Silverlip Pearl Oyster (2018)

Pinctada maxima

  • Anthony Hart (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Thor Saunders (Department of Primary Industry and Resources, Northern Territory)
  • Luke Albury (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland)

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

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The Silverlip Pearl Oyster is the largest species in the pearl oyster family. It also produces the largest pearls. Australia has three stocks of Silverlip Pearl Oyster. WA and QLD each have a sustainable stock. Stock in the NT is undefined.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Northern Territory Northern Territory MOPWHF Undefined Catch, effort
Mother of Pearl Wild Harvest Fishery (NT)
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Stock Structure

Pinctada maxima or the Silverlip Pearl Oyster is the largest species in the pearl oyster family [Shirai 1994], and produces the largest pearls. It is distributed within the central Indo-Pacific region, bounded by the Bay of Bengal to the west, Solomon Islands to the east, Taiwan to the north, and Northern Australia to the south [Southgate et al. 2008], at depths from the shallow sub-tidal to more than 50 m. Within Australia, the population genetic distribution has been investigated in Western Australia and Northern Territory [Benzie et al. 2006]. The biological stock structure is uncertain; however, Western Australian stocks are generally considered to be one stock (with the possible exception of a localised population in Exmouth Gulf), separate from stocks in the Northern Territory. The biological stock structure for Queensland is unknown.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.

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Stock Status

Northern Territory

Large catches of Silverlip Pearl Oyster were taken from Northern Territory waters between 1901 and 1966. The catch peaked at 804 t in 1937 and the last significant catch was 339 t in 1957. Since that time, annual catches have been very low, primarily because the market for mother-of-pearl collapsed. Heavy historical fishing is considered to have depleted the stock in many areas along the Northern Territory coast [Knuckey 1995].

Surveys conducted in the 1990s found significant numbers of large, mature individuals, indicating that recruitment was occurring, but biomass was not estimated [Knuckey 1995]. Catches earlier this century were around 2 t (to supply niche markets) and there has been no harvest in the Northern Territory since 2008. Although no fishing pressure is currently being exerted, the lack of a biomass estimate means that there is insufficient information available to confidently classify the status of this stock.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Silverlip Pearl Oyster in the Northern Territory is classified as an undefined stock.

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Silverlip Pearl Oyster biology [Hart and Joll 2006]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Silverlip Pearl Oyster 30 years, 250 mm DVM  Males: 2–3 years, 110 mm DVM Females: 7–8 years, 175 mm DVM
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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Silverlip Pearl Oyster
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Fishing methods
Northern Territory
Management methods
Method Northern Territory
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Spatial zoning
Northern Territory
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown

Queensland – Indigenous (management methods) In Queensland, under the Fisheries Act 1994 (Qld), Indigenous fishers are able to use prescribed traditional and non-commercial fishing apparatus in waters open to fishing. Size and possession limits, and seasonal closures do not apply to Indigenous fishers. Further exemptions to fishery regulations may be applied for through permits.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Silverlip Pearl Oyster - note confidential catch not shown
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  1. Benzie, JAH and Smith-Keune, C 2006, Microsatellite variation in Australian and Indonesian pearl oyster Pinctada maxima populations. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 314: 197–211.
  2. DoF 2016, Western Australian Silver-Lipped Pearl Oyster (Pinctada maxima) Resource Harvest Strategy 2016–2021, v1. Fisheries Management Paper No. 276.
  3. Hart AM, Thomson AW and Murphy D 2011, Environmental influences on stock abundance and fishing power in the silver-lipped pearl oyster fishery. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 68(3): 444–53.
  4. Hart, AM and Joll, L 2006, Growth, mortality, recruitment, and sex ratio in wild stocks of the silver-lipped pearl oyster Pinctada maxima (Jameson) (Mollusca: Pteriidae) in Western Australia. Journal of Shellfish Research, 25 (1): 201–210.
  5. Knuckey, IA 1995, The Northern Territory Pearl Oyster Fishery. FRDC final report 1991/14. 47 pp.
  6. Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2018, Queensland Stock Status Assessment Workshop Proceedings 2018. Species Summaries. 19–20 June 2018, Brisbane.
  7. Shirai, S 1994, Pearls and pearl oysters of the world. Marine Planning Co. Japan. 95 pp. (in Japanese and English).
  8. Southgate PC, Strack E, Hart AM, Wada KT, Monteforte M, Carino M, Langy S, Lo C, Acosta-Salmon H and Wang A 2008, Chapter 9: Exploitation and Culture of Major Commercial Species. pp. 303–56. In: The Pearl Oyster, Eds Southgate PC and Lucas J, Elsevier London.

Downloadable reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.