A team of aquatic researchers harvest eggs and sperms of giant clams (Tridacna gigas) (Photo courtesy of Malampaya Foundation Inc.)

The Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI) recently announced it has conducted a second spawning of giant clams in Ulugan Bay, Barangay Macarascas.

MFI’s “String of Pearls” project last week conducted the local spawning, with the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI), the forerunner of the giant clam conservation in the country, supervising the activity where about 9.5 million eggs were fertilized from the native giant clams located at Dos Palmas.

UPMSI researcher Sherry Lyn Sayco in an earlier press statement said that taklobo is an important species in aquatic conservation and preservation citing its role in increasing fish density within its surroundings.

(Photo courtesy of Malampaya Foundation Inc.)

“Important ‘yong giant clams dahil marami silang ecological significance, habitat and food for some of the marine animals. It also benefits people because it helps increase fish density,” Sayco said.

Western Philippines University (WPU) researcher Lota Creencia claimed that the giant clams found in Palawan are native, pointing out the difference in size compared to its Pacific Island family.

“Ang sizes na nandito sa Honda Bay are bigger [compared to the ones spawned from Pacific Islands], pero para ma-confirm lang ay magco-conduct ng molecular study,” Creencia said.

She also said that the task is challenging as Tridacna gigas is known to have a low survivability rate.

“Tridacna gigas is hard to propagate because the population is few. We need to really go to the broodstock (source) to collect eggs and sperms, compared to other species of clams which numbers can still afford to be brought into laboratories,” Creencia said.

The Tridacna gigas, with a known .01 percent survival rate, is one of the most endangered clam species and was even declared extinct in the Philippines in the 1980s. Once sufficiently matured, the native Tridacna gigas would be deployed to MFI’s marine protected areas in northern Palawan.

After injecting serotonin into the Tridacna gigas, the diver must wait for the clam to first induce sperm cells, followed by egg cells. For the collected sperms and eggs to fertilize, a certain proportion has to be observed.

UPMSI, under the leadership of national scientist Ed Gomez, took a specimen from the Pacific Islands and grew it in the country. Surprisingly, it was found that the Philippine-native species of the Tridacna gigas still exists in Palawan.

The spawning activity was in line with MFI’s “String-of-Pearls of Project” that began last year, successfully multiplying two other species of giant clam, namely Tridacna squamosa and Hippopus hippopus. These would be deployed to the managed marine protected areas (MPAs) in northern Palawan communities.

MFI’s “String of Pearls” project is in partnership with local communities, local governments, and agencies in Palawan, UPMSI, WPU, Palawan State University (PSU), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), and Dos Palmas Resort and Spa.