The Black-lipped pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera, Pā in Hawaiian) is treasured by many cultures because it produces the expensive Tahitian black pearl. Well before the monument was established, in the late 1920's, black-lipped pearl oysters were heavily fished in the lagoon of Pearl & Hermes Atoll, which eventually led to the collapse of their populations. They were discovered at Pearl & Hermes in 1928, and over the next two years approximately 150,000 oysters were removed or killed. A post-harvest population assessment in 1930 found only 480 animals. Surveys condicted in 2003 have not shown recovery to pre-expoitation levels. Black-lipped pearl oysters are now uncommon throughout the Hawaiian Islands and it is illegal to take them. These oysters are frequently covered by sand, algae and hydroids, thus making them blend in well with their surrounding habitat.
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