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Sea of Cortez pearl harvest part II

Sea of Cortez pearl harvest part II
The farmers of Sea of Cortez pearls met while they were studying Marine Biology here in Guaymas. These three brilliant men: Douglas McLaurin, Enrique Arizmendi and Manuel Nava are all very different personalities but share a love of science, history and especially the ocean.
They are men of facts.

In 1991, long before a single oyster was nucleated here, the farmers of Cortez pearls spent a huge amount of time gathering what was left of the native Pteria sterna “rainbow lipped” oysters and fostering a repopulation following their near extinction.

The earliest chronicles of boat captains and Jesuit priests reported leagues upon leagues of pearl beds in the Sea of Cortez.  These accounts were recorded after the arrival of the Spaniards following the conquest of Mexico City in 1523. Over-fishing by the Spaniards and the freshly created nation of Mexico led to dramatic losses.

The creation of the Hoover dam greatly effected the Sea of Cortez and led to near extinction of many species. For thousands of years the Colorado River had supplied fresh water to the Gulf of California. Upon the completion of the dam, that fresh water dried up and changed the salinity balance of the entire gulf, killing some species of fish and robbing all others of oxygen rich waters.

Click here for an article by Douglas McLaurin to read more about these fascinating historical events and learn about the great Japanese Conspiracy in the Sea of Cortez!


Pearls oysters/mollusks are the “canaries” of their environs. They cannot survive in polluted water.
Small scale pearl farms such as the Sea of Cortez pearl farm, Kamoka and the fresh water pearls grown in Lake Kasumi ga Ura Japan are actually GREAT for the environment!

In the case of Sea of Cortez pearls the farmers created a generous no-fishing zone around their farm and all species have flourished there, which in turn has brought greater health to the entire bay… (By giving shelter to fish, the populations have increased, which in turn makes the fishermen happier, which in turn makes a brighter community of people)

As I sit here looking out over Bacochibampo Bay I can easily see how bountiful this place must have been hundreds of years ago. The contrast of the quartz  studded desert and the clear blue sea is the making of true paradise. Sonoran hospitality, warm smiles everywhere you look, and a calm easy pace of living has made this one of my new favorite places on earth.

Morning light on the fountain.

Native cacti in bloom.

A beautiful stained glass window depicting Cortez in our hotel.

A spur from a Spanish solider, part of Manuel’s collection.

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Sea of Cortez pearl harvest part I

Sea of Cortez pearl harvest part I
After multiple flights and bus rides, we arrived in Guaymas, Mexico …
just as a tropical storm was winding down. The clouds were heavy and the gusts of wind warm and refreshing. Our hotel was built in the 1800’s and the architecture is gorgeous. Generous arches, hand carved wooden details and expansive plazas decorate the shoreline looking out over Bacochibampo Bay.
We finished the evening with Douglas McLaurin and his lovely wife Elisabeth eating ice cream made from local fruits, and wandering through down town. Douglas is an endless source of historic and scientific facts. I learned that Guaymas once boasted many foreign embassies and was a pivotal port for goods destined for the U.S.
Today the European architecture is what remains of that bustling time. Guaymas is also the home town of three Mexican presidents.
This morning I took my coffee in the shade of a giant cactus. Douglas picked me up for smoked marlin fish tacos for breakfast before heading to the farm.
The Sea of Cortez pearl farm consists of a gorgeous lofty white gift shop and offices.
The farmers and their staff have created a fantastic display of tools, shells and equipment to truly educate their guests in all the steps it takes to raise these very rare pearls. The jewelry store is lovely, and is complimented by two lovely ladies with warm smiles: Rocio Mendoza and Carolina Bazua. It boasts the work of many talented designers and artisans. The farm is really a destination in Guaymas and guided tours are given daily.
I’ve never seen a pearl shop with a better view!
The Sea of Cortez pearl farm crew work seamlessly.
Wise eyed men sing sweetly while bringing baskets of oysters in from the warm waters.
The oysters are opened and split in half.
Then comes the fun part! We SQUISH through the guts to find each and every pearl!
I was thankful for the full length aprons and matching boots!
Pearl harvesting is a messy business and these guys do it in style!
Enrique Arizmendi and Manuel Nava painstakingly record the pearl count and quality harvested from each basket.
After the pearls are harvested the shells and meat are separated.
The shells are cleaned and sorted. The best quality to be used as inlay, the others allowed to dry naturally. The meat is cleaned and cut to be sold as sea food.

The oysters used at the Sea of Cortez pearl farm are Pteria sterna .. Otherwise known as the “rainbow lipped shell”
It’s really no wonder!
Daniel Duarte, a very pleasant man, is in charge of web sales and photography and I must say I envy his job!

After harvesting was over we pored over the mabe pearl stock and matched pairs. Then we went for lunch in San Carlos.
We sat next to the harbor and learned that there is much truth in the description of it being a “drinking village with a fishing problem”

It was a fantastic first day and we’re looking forward to day two!
Being at a harvest is “what it’s all about”… The hokey pokey for a pearl dealer!!

 

 

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RUCKUS 2014 - Panel Discussion and Interview with Sarah Canizzaro

 

 

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