Alternate Title

New Opportunities for Economic Benefits for the American Southeast in the International Pearl Industry


Economic participation of the United States in the global pearl industry has been minimal in terms of economic benefits received, although critical in terms of support to the industry. The United States is the primary provider of freshwater mussel shell nucleus and a major consumer of pearls, but economic benefits accrue mainly to foreign companies whereas environmental and economic externalities affect the economy and environment of the southeastern states. The economic role of the U.S. mussel shell industry and aquaculture sector can be enhanced if the mussel shell fishery is stabilized and if options to extract higher returns for the stakeholders are explored. Establishment of a freshwater pearl culture industry can aid in strengthening the U.S. role in the global industry through a variety of means: 1) by providing an economic incentive to conserve freshwater mussel stocks; 2) by establishing a local market for shell nucleus of the smaller size categories; 3) by supplying U.S. demand for pearls; and 4) by providing experimental animals for research and development to create marketable technologies for export to the pearl industry.