THE SPAWNING: After injecting serotonin to the Tridacna gigas, the diver has to wait for the clam to induce, first, sperm cells, followed by egg cells. For the collected sperms and eggs to fertilize, a certain proportion has to be followed. Photo was taken during the first spawning activity of Palawan genome Tridacna gigas last June 1 at Dos Palmas. (MFI)

Conservation efforts to save the endangered giant clams, locally known as “taklobo”, has received a boost from marine scientists working with the Malampaya Foundation, Inc. (MFI).

An estimated 9.5 million eggs of this largest living bivalve mollusk locally were successfully spawned Saturday at the hatchery of the Western Philippines University (WPU) in Brgy. Binduyan, according to a MFI statement.

The MFI said the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) has taken the lead in supervising the propagation project from native giant clams in Dos Palmas.

AT THE HATCHERY’S LAB: Photo shows MFI biodiversity conservation manager Pacifico Beldia II observing the early phase of the development of Tridacna gigas’ fertilized eggs on June 1 in the laboratory of the WPU Hatchery in Brgy. Binduyan, Puerto Princesa City. On average, a juvenile has to spend six months in the hatchery before it is placed in ocean nurseries. When it is finally released into the wild, it has to be caged during the initial months for further protection until it matures enough to survive on its own. (MFI)

Dr. Lota A. Creencia of the WPU College of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences was quoted by the MFI in saying that the giant clam is not easy to spawn because of its small number.

“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 in the MFI statement.

Once the eggs have matured, they will be deployed to the marine protected areas in northern Palawan that are being supported by the MFI.

THE TEAM: Malampaya Foundation, Inc., Western Philippine University, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, Palawan State University, Dos Palmas Resort & Spa, and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development welcomed the month of June by commencing the special project of helping the Palawan genome of the Tridacna gigas increase in numbers. (MFI)

UPMSI researcher Sherry Lyn Sayco also said in the MFI statement that the conservation of Tridacna gigas is ecologically significant because they play an important role in the marine ecosystem.

“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.

Declared extinct in the Philippines in the 1980s because of its known .01 percent survival rate, Tridacna gigas is one of the most endangered clam species.

The MFI said in order to bring it back, UPMSI, under the leadership of national scientist Dr. Ed Gomez, took specimen from the Pacific Islands and grew it in the country.

However, the MFI said it was discovered that the Philippine-native species of the giant clam still exists in Palawan and Gomez confirmed this himself during a recent visit to the Dos Palmas spawning site.

The MFI added that Creencia said there are reports that prove that Tridacna gigas in the province are native.

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

The MFI said the spawning project, which is also in partnership with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), is in line with their “String-of-Pearls of Project” that was started in 2018.

It also successfully multiplied two other giant clam species — Tridacna squamosa and Hippopus hippopus — which will be deployed to effectively manage marine protected areas (MPAs) in communities in northern Palawan.

MFI has been partnering with communities, local governments and agencies in Palawan, Oriental Mindoro, and Batangas to establish, expand and set-up proper management and protection mechanisms for MPAs since 2013.

MFI’s String of Pearls Project is also in partnership with the Palawan State University PSU) and Dos Palmas Resort & Spa.