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SYDNEY, Australia (September 14, 2000 – Radio Australia)---A Sydney auction of black pearls from Solomon Islands' first pearl farm has attracted bids from North America, Japan and France, thanks to a display on the Internet.

The pearls are the result of an aid project designed by the World Fish Centre and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

The project aims to spread the black pearl industry to more Pacific islands.

Dr. Johann Bell, leader of the Coastal and Marine Resources Research Programme, says the auction during the Olympic Games is designed to give the Solomons' pearl industry maximum exposure.

"Our main purpose in doing that is to really broadcast the fact that this work has been done and this opportunity exists for countries like Solomon islands. But not only Solomon islands .. Fiji and other neighboring countries could also embark on this as well. Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga - all have this species of pearl oyster. And if it can work in Solomon islands and Fiji, then I think the neighboring countries would stand to benefit as well."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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