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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎22r] (43/62)

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The record is made up of 1 file (31 folios). It was created in 10 Mar 1904-19 Jun 1918. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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5. Oyster shells when picked up not only have other small oyster shells
attached to them, but appear to be the hosts of many other molluscs and
parasites of different sorts.
The larvae after release from the parent oyster are free to move where they
like. Later on they stick to the bottom either close to the place of origin but
on occasions at a considerable distance therefrom. They then fix themselves
to shells, stones or other objects and assume the form of an oyster. They are
that time only about 2 J oth of an inch in diameter and it is more than possible
that large numbers of these adhere to the shells, and were the shells returned
to the water it seems probable that many of the minute oysters would survive
the few hours which they remain in the pearling boat.
In certain artificial beds the method is simply to distribute oyster shells
over the ground, just before the spawning season, so as to afford domiciles to
the young oysters.
I say few hours, as there is no fixed procedure for examining the oysters
for pearls.
This depends on the quantity of shells found on any particular day, the
state of the weather, the idiosyncrasies of the various Kakhodas, etc.
Generally speaking, there are two examinations: one in the evening and
the other in the morning.
6. Oyster beds have been destroyed by over-fishing, by natural causes,
probably disease as their enemies are few, and rarely by migration.
In such instances it has frequently taken many years for the bank to
recover itself.
Locally it has long been known that certain banks which yield abundantly
one year may have very few oysters the next or even for several years in suc
cession. It is therefore clear that the cause now attributed is'not the sole
reason for diminution.
7. At present natural causes for diminution are beyond our power of
prevent increase of pearling vessels. There only
Xiveu uu me assumption that the theory adduced by the Nathodas for the
deficit is incorrect it would not be wise to take any risks in the matter as the
shell trade is only a by-product of the pearl trade, and even in exceptional
years it only amounts to about 4 per cent, the value of the latter.
The fishers are Arabs and I am confident that a large number of the
middle class Nakhodas will follow the bigger ones to make some combined
effort for the coming season. Owing to lack of organization, the measures
without our co-operation and guidance are likely to be only partially successful
and a step of this nature is practically useless unless complete measures are
taken. It is moreover necessary to contemplate the fact that the measures
might have to proceed for five or ten years or even indefinitely.
There is no doubt that our assistance in closing the shell trade would be
warmly appreciated by the Arabs, who would then be convinced that we would
sooner lose the trade in shells than see their pearl trade damaged.
8. "vjpurernment will desire to be fully convinced of the necessity before
taking action to assist stopping the trade, and I regret I have not sufficient
data to afford such proofs.
It may be considered that for the following season it is sufficient to allow
the Nakhodas to make their own preventive measures.
In this case it will only be necessary to watch the results of the next pearl
season. If they are favourable, no further action appears necessary; if
unfavourable, complete measures can be taken for the season of 1912, and in
the meantime the steps to be taken can be fully considered.
Should Government wish to take fuller measures for the season of 1911,
the only thing that is necessary in respect to Bahrain is for Sheikh Isa to
proclaim tha^ no shells will be allowed to be imported, or sold in Bahrain, and
merchants making advances for shells will do so at their own risk.

About this item


The contents of the file relate to the British Government’s concerns over growing British and international interest in the Gulf’s pearling industry, hitherto almost exclusively exploited by the region’s indigenous inhabitants.

1) The first half of the file (folios 2-13) comprises copies of Government of India correspondence published in 1904 and 1905, which discuss Britain’s historic role in the Gulf in relation to the pearling industry. Themes covered include: Britain’s duty to protect the pearl banks for the benefit of the Arab pearl divers, acknowledgement of growing national and international interest in the pearl banks, the extent of territorial waters, and the likely result of any legal challenges to Britain’s refusal to allow foreign interests the opportunity to exploit the Gulf’s pearl banks.

2) Correspondence relating to an enquiry by a German businessman, concerning the pearl trade in the Gulf (folios 15-17).

3) Printed copies of correspondence (folios 20-23) from the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. Political Resident A senior ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul General) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Residency. (Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Cox) and the Bahrain Political Agent A mid-ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Agency. (Captain Charles Mackenzie), dated 1910, concerning the increasing trade in oyster shells in the Gulf, used for the production of mother of pearl. A drop in the numbers of oysters being fished is attributed to the mother of pearl industry. A German firm based in Bahrain, Wonckhaus & Co., is identified as a key exporter of oyster shells at Bahrain.

4) A letter (folio 27) intercepted by the Political Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. in Bahrain, from the Secretary of the Wolverine Motor Works, U.S.A., to Robert Wonckhaus & Co., dated 3 February 1915. The letter and accompanying leaflet (folios 28-29) relates to Wolverine Motor Works’ new combined compressor and propelling motor, designed specifically for use in the pearl fishing industry.

5) A typewritten extract from the Times of India Illustrated , dated 19 [month missing, presumed June] 1918 (folio 30) reporting on rumours that German financiers are buying up all the pearls available in Britain and France.

Extent and format
1 file (31 folios)

The contents of the file have been arranged in approximate chronological order, running from the earliest items at the front of the file to the latest at the end.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: The file is foliated from its front cover to inside back cover, using circled pencil numbers in the top-right corner of each recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. . There is an additional pagination system running throughout the file.

Folio 29 is a fold-out.

There is minor insect damage to papers throughout the file.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎22r] (43/62), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/3, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 21 February 2020]

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