Wild spat collection and hatcheries
Juvenile pearl oysters can be obtained in two ways. One is to collect them in the wild, the other is through oyster breeding programmes in hatcheries. The condition varies in different countries. Whilst in French Polynesia nature permits Pinctada Margaritifera oysters to be collected at a juvenile stage ('spat') in the wild, in other areas where oyster reproduction is insufficient or qualities are not high enough oyster hatchery programmes are used.
In areas of Australia, adult wild oysters (of specific sizes) are collected under a strict quota system regulated by government. This ensures that the wild oyster stocks are not depleted and gives farmers access to strong adult oysters that can be used for cultured pearl production.
An oyster must reach a certain size before it can be operated in order to induce the birth of a cultured pearl. Pearl farmers must wait and care for oysters until they reach a grafting size. For Pinctada Margaritifera oysters in French Polynesia this time period usually ranges between 12 and 24 months.