Touring the Guaymas Pearl Farm
"Back in the day, pearls were used as currency to buy food, people, land; well, really just about everything!" said Fernando, our very enthusiastic tour guide.
We decided to visit the Pearlas del Mar de Cortez while we had a rental car, as it's located 30 minutes from our boat in San Carlos. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised. We had a private tour scheduled with our friends on SV Soul Rebel on a cloudy Saturday morning. After winding our way to the water, we found ourselves to be the only visitors at the farm. The pearl farm, jewelry store, and harvesting grounds are situated at the Center of Conservation in Guaymas.
We learned that towards the end of the 19th century the pearl banks of the Sea of Cortez were quickly depleting due to over-fishing and by the first of the twentieth century, the Sea of Cortez pearls were disappearing from the world markets.
In 1991, a small group of University students in Guaymas started experimenting using the “Rainbow Lipped Pearl Oyster” to see if they could restore the local oyster population. The rainbow lipped pearl oyster produces an iridescent pearl and are considered some of the most valuable in the world. These oysters are under cultivation for four years instead of the usual two years. Sustainability and fair trade are very important to the farm. 70% of the Oysters don’t produce good pearls, but since the oysters did manage to breed, they return the "bad" pearl back to the sea in a special ceremony and derive other valuable sub-products from those oysters:
The Mother of Pearl shell is used to produce jewelry and inlays, as well as mother-of-pearl cream.
The oyster’s meat is considered a delicacy. It looks and tastes similar to a scallop, so it is sold locally to restaurants and vendors.
We learned all sorts of tidbits of information from Fernando on the hour long tour. It cost $70 pesos/person and we would recommend checking it out if you are ever in the area. Here is the website if you would like to learn more: https://cortezpearl.mx/pages/frontpage