There used to be an abundance of pearls in this area during the period of Spanish rule, hence the name, and great quantities of valuable pearls were harvested. In 1587, Spain imported 600 pounds of pearls, many of them rivaling the choicest specimens from Ceylon or the East Indies. During the same period a large quantity of Inca gold was also shipped to Europe through pirate infested the waters.
In the years that followed pearl diving enterprises dropped off as the beds rapidly became exhausted due to too much harvesting. The industry finally ceased completely in 1920 when a plague killed almost all of the mother pearl shellfish in the Bay of Panama. Black Lipped Pearl Oysters, and other species, have reestablished in the area but it has not regained a foothold as a major industry. You could try finding some yourself !
One pearl from here , the largest in the world, weighed 250 carats (50 grams), but the most famous pearl was “La Peregrina” (Wikipedia link). La Peregrina is pear-shaped and weighed 55.95 carats (12 grams) after being drilled and cleaned. It is pictured below worn by : Mary I, Queen of England in 1554 ; Elisabeth, Queen of Spain in 1625 ; and by Elizabeth Taylor in 1969. The African slave who surfaced with the pearl over 400 years ago was rewarded with his freedom.
The Pearl Islands offer a unique wildlife opportunity which allows the nature enthusiast to view whale breaching, bird watching, as well as discover underwater worlds. The sport fishing in this region is world-renowned, with Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish migrating at different times of the year. About 40 miles away from Panama City, the Pearl Islands are a convenient destination for a quick get-away.
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