Pearl farmers in WA's Kimberley bring shine back to Australian pearling industry
Almost 12 years ago a mystery disease wiped out much of the wild stock of the Pinctada Maxima pearl shells, once abundant off the Kimberley coast.
Six years on and they're reaping the rewards of that investment, harvesting pearls that started out life in the hatchery.
Industry turning a corner
At the industry's peak, 16 independent pearl producers operated on the Kimberley coast, but the downturn in the mid-2000s saw that reduced to just three companies in WA.
While demand has been slowly recovering, local producers have struggled to compete with cheap, mass-produced Asian pearls.