In 2016, an exceptional mortality rate among large pearls was recorded on the Spanish coast. By the end of 2018, it had spread to the French, Monegasque and Italian maritime zones. The Prince’s Government, with the help of numerous local institutions and international groups, initiated a series of actions for the preservation of the species, including an experimental breeding project for pearl larvae.
According to a report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a parasite infecting the digestive glands of large pearls is preventing them from functioning properly, effectively starving them.
Since June, the Environment Directorate and the Oceanographic Institute have been implementing a protocol to capture large nacres in the larval state, as they are carried by the Ligurian current. The larvae will be the subject of an experimental breeding project in order to be re-implanted in their natural environment, making it possible to study their level of resistance.
Five lines with 12 recovery bags have already been installed. The mesh of the bags optimises the chances of catching larvae in the current. These bags will then be brought to the surface between September and October, and carefully examined. If at least two centimeters of larvae have been recovered, they will be stored in the new Monegasque Marine Care Center for a period of about one year. They can develop there until they reach a sufficient size allowing them to be reintroduced in to their natural environment.
Under the leadership of the Environment Directorate, many institutions have come on board for the research and conservation project of the large pearls, including the Prince Albert II Foundation, the Scientific Centre of Monaco, the Oceanographic Institute, the Paul Ricard Oceanographic Institute, the Villefranche Sea Institute, the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, and the Monegasque Association for the Protection of Nature (AMPN), which has been following the Larvotto nacre population for a long time.