Mollusk in Shallow Water

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Introducing Pinctada Mazatlanica!

In my next chapter of all the awesomeness I am learning here on my Mexican pearl farm trip is the burden of being a mollusk that lives in shallow water. The species of mollusk in shallow water that I am referring to is the Pinctada Mazatlanica. This species of mollusk loves warm, tropical waters. In fact, although this population of mollusks has adapted itself to live in cooler waters, it refuses to grow in the cold! The Mazatlanica only grows in the summertime and in shallow waters!

mazatlantica shell - the pearl girls

In terms of nacre and pearl production, the black lipped oyster of the South Pacific is Mazatlanica’s closest rival. Do you see the colorful lip on this Mazatlanica shell? This mollusk can produce black and green pearls along with 2513other colors. And did I mention it loves warm water? See if you can spot these mollusks along the shoreline!

mazatlantica mollusks in the water - the pearl girls

Hidden in Plain Sight – Shallow Water

Did you spot them? These waters actually contain thousands of this once almost extinct species. You can spot a few here. Mollusks are teaming with life that attach to their surfaces. They can be spotted because they are darker than the surrounding rocks. Here, I will show you a couple:

mazatlantica mollusks in the water - see the shells - the pearl girls

Although this species is now being revitalized in the Sea of Cortez, there is not an active commercial farming trade for these mollusks. You can read more on the current pearl production in Mexico in my post “Mexican Pearl Farm”.

So, what is the danger of a mollusk in shallow water? Well, they are oh so easy to fish for! In 1596 Admiral Sebastian Vizcaino reported that pearl oysters “could be seen with the naked eye through the crystalline sea.” What a delightful proposition for the explorers who coveted these pearls and for the monarchs who funded such expeditions! The Pinctada Mazatlanica all but disappeared. It took a while, naturally, but with the extent that pearl-seekers were overfishing, the mollusk populations simply could not survive.

Exploited throughout the centuries, the Pinctada Mazatlanica nearly went extinct. By the early 1900s, pearl-seekers harvested half a million of these mollusks annually. Pearls were difficult to find by this point but the mother of pearl was enticing as well. Finally, by 1940 the Mexican government banned fishing of the Pinctada Mazatlanica, and this ban remains in effect today.

~ India

Sources: Las Perlas de California by Cuauhtémoc Morgan along with my own travels to the Sea of Cortez pearl farm

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