Typical operating procedures used in the wild harvest pearl aquaculture (Pinctada maxima) industry in Western Australia are described as a basis for examining the potential environmental impact of the industry. A risk analysis workshop was held, which included industry representatives, marine scientists, regulatory agencies and conservation interests. The goal of the workshop was to document the main potential environmental and ecological risks that arise from the various activities carried out by the P. maxima industry. Thirteen environmental and ecological issues were identified across the P. maxima fishery. None were considered to be high risks; all were ranked as either moderate (23%) or low (77%). Moderate risk rankings included: introduction of disease from seeding; attraction of other fauna and introduction of exotic organisms. Low risks were: spread of disease; introduction of disease from hatchery; introduction of disease from translocation; impact to protected and endangered species resulting from entanglement; impact of habitat; impact to protected and endangered species resulting from farm lighting; nutrient impacts in sediment; perceived change in water quality; potential for litter and reduction of primary productivity. The low ratings given to disease risks took into account current strict regulatory controls for minimizing disease risks. The industry is considered to be environmentally benign. However, recommendations are made on how to further minimize risk.
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Vol. 25 • No. 1