A bacteria outbreak in the Cook Islands, where the small but growing black pearl farming industry accounts for the country's second largest export, has caused a loss of 13% of the seeded oyster stock and about 30% of the pre-seeded stock. Locals are blaming dry weather and sloppy farming practices for the outbreak.
The disease affecting the oysters was discovered in November. It's reportedly found naturally in the lagoon of the atoll of Manihiki in the northern Cook Islands, and is flourishing because of the warm water temperature and oyster overcrowding. The same disease affected pearl oysters in Western Australia during the 1970s and '80s. The Cook Islands Government has been working to find a solution since November, when it set up a task force to develop short- and long-term measures to cope with the urgent pearl oyster situation.
- by Julia M. Duncan