Paul Birch - Chief Executive Officer | Pearling Master

Paul Birch - Chief Executive Officer | Pearling Master

Tell us a little about yourself
I initially relocated to Broome in 2014 from Dunsborough with my wife and 2 boys. I had been working in the Wine Industry in a variety of wine production and management roles mainly in the Margaret River wine region. I have also been lucky enough to spend time working in Sicily and Southern Italy as well as some time in Mildura. Following a family tragedy, we decided it was really time to appreciate what life had to offer and fortunately an opportunity came up to join Willie Creek Pearls.

After spending 7 years working with Willie Creek Pearls as the General Manager of Broome & Commercial Operations, I was privileged enough to be offered the opportunity to step up as the CEO and lead the amazing and dedicated teams we have.  I am now lucky enough to be able to work between Broome and Perth.

I like the good things in life – wine, food, fishing and rugby union. Above all else my family is number one.

Aside from being the CEO, as a Pearling Master what does your job at Willie Creek Pearls involve?
I am responsible for all commercial pearling operations and disseminating the world of pearling to our staff and the world at large. I look after the shell stocks and the various groups (cohorts) so that they are handled and managed to get the best outcome in terms of resultant pearl quality and long-term productivity of the group. Being the Pearling Master means I am also the delegated person in our company to handle a number of process and documents with the Department of Fisheries.

My role is very hands on and I engage assistance from our entire team, including our tour guides all the way through to our Managing Director, Robert Banfield.

What is your favourite part about Pearl Farming?
In a general sense, it’s the concept that you have a tangible object that you guide through various process as you assist it to create something very special. Along the journey there are obstacles and numerous changes to conditions / situations which, when combined with the tyranny of time, means that you need to adapt and change what you’re doing to try and maximise the outcome – short and long term. In a physical sense it’s about being alert and interacting with the ocean environment.

Paul pearl harvest

How did you become a Pearling Master and how long did it take?
Being a Pearling Master requires only a simple application form (and fee). One of the prerequisites of course is that you need to be associated with a company that holds a commercial licence. I think the term is something that should be more widely used though, as it was in the days gone. I believe the terminology gives the position a level of integrity and will help the industry by making those who are directly involved in the creation of the end product more familiar to the public, which in turn helps everyone understand that there is an architect with personality. 

What is the best part about your job?
I’m forever learning and each day is almost never the same as the previous. It's dynamic and forever changing. Mostly it’s about the people, whether it be staff, colleagues or visitors. It’s great to be involved with people who all have their own story and I love the fact I’ve can share our intriguing and complex pearling story with them.

What’s the toughest part of your job?
The wet season. It’s hot, humid and the westerly wind results in more complicated aspects than what it already is with the tides and our location in general. I also have lots of restless nights with storms and low-pressure systems threatening the infrastructure (long lines) that the shell is on and all of the other parts of Willie Creek Pearls that I’m involved with. In saying that, I do like the dramatic scenery that comes with the wet… it's amazing and you can really feel how electric it is sometimes. Also, the barra fire up so that helps!

What do you find so special about Australian South Sea Pearls?
The impressive speed at which Australian South Sea Pearls can grow and create a brilliant lustre. I've recently seen oysters that have amazing results after just a quarter of the growing period. That’s not to say we would harvest them after this time but just that the process is so immediate which is a result of the unique and pristine environment we work with and that is home to the oysters.

Pearling Master

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about Pearling?
To be honest, everything about pearling is surprising. The history, the industry itself including the regulations, the processes, how oysters respond to different aspects, the people, the future and the opportunity for science to drive development make this industry so fascinating.

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1 comment

Veronica Curness

Veronica Curness

Great story Paul. Can’t wait to get back to Broome, & do another tour (our 5th) of Willie Creek Pearl Farm.

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