The gametogenic cycle and the reproductive effort of the blacklip pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, cultivated in Takapoto lagoon were studied for a 1-year period (March 1997–April 1998) by bimonthly observations of gonadal sections, dry tissue weights and gonadal index in a population of pearl oyster composed of three age-groups. Pearl oysters attained sexual maturity in the end of their first year (height ≈ 40 mm), implying that P. margaritifera is a late-maturing species in comparison with other Pteriidae. This species was also confirmed to be a marked protandrous successive hermaphrodite in culture, with 100 % of males at first maturity and 75 % in older pearl oyster (height > 120 mm). The general pattern of gametogenic activity, fairly synchronous in both sexes, was comparable with that of other tropical bivalves: reproduction occurs continuously throughout the year with a maximal activity during the warm season (November–May). No resting period was observed. Quantitative growth data showed that P. margaritifera exhibits an annual synchronised polymodal spawning pattern, with two spawning peaks in age-group I (height ≈ 70 mm) and five in age-groups II (height ≈ 100 mm) and III (height ≈ 120 mm). Spawning was sometimes incomplete, nevertheless a clear relationship between gamete production (PR, g) and size (height H, mm) was obtained: PR = 5.26 × 10–7 H2.91 (R[sup2 ] = 0.99, P < 0.05). Estimation of PR was used to calculate the annual reproductive effort in P. margaritifera. Reproductive effort (%) was similar to those calculated for temperate species and showed a progressive increase with the age of pearl oyster, from 7 % in age-group I to 38 % in age-group III. This study showed that, in a fairly stable tropical environment such as the Takapoto lagoon, P. margaritifera is a multiple spawner, which uses an opportunistic reproductive strategy, allowing investment, all year around, of any surplus energy into gamete production. Surplus energy is ensured by the high pumping rates developed by this non-symbiotic bivalve to succeed in low seston conditions.