Pearl diving 'regains popularity' in Bahrain
Manama, December 18, 2013
Interest in commercial pearl diving could be on the rise in Bahrain as regular excursions are regaining popularity, said an expert.
Al Dar Island manager Mohammed Slaise said the sector could make a splashing comeback as he leads regular pearl collecting trips from the resort off the Sitra coast, in a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
"The area I go to, when I first started doing the trips six years ago, I wouldn't see a single boat, but now there are many more," Slaise told the GDN.
"There are more people into it and making a living out of it."
Slaise even knows of fishermen who have turned their backs on fishing and now rely solely on the ancient and potentially lucrative art of pearl diving.
Yet hunting for pearls was not always so profitable, for the actual hunters at least.
In the early 20th century free-divers would commit themselves to prolonged trips, lasting three months or more, on pearling boats that scoured the coast of Bahrain.
In return for their services they received measly sums in a kind of loan arrangement that Slaise described as "a bit like slavery".
Pearl diving was once a mainstay of Manama's economy, but following the discovery of oil and the advent of cultured pearls in the late 1920s the industry witnessed a rapid decline.
Natural pearls form inside oysters, which abound in the seas off Bahrain's coast, yet today few divers exploit this rich natural resource, with tour operators holding a near monopoly on the oyster beds that remain.
The profession, which employed 90 per cent of Bahrainis, largely died out when divers took up new jobs in the oil sector. - TradeArabia News Service