The Malampaya Foundation, Inc.’s (MFI), under its String-of-Pearls program, recently released over 600 juvenile giant clams, locally known as “taklobo”, in a marine protected area (MPA) in Cadlao Island, El Nido.
The project is aimed at boosting the population of the Tridacna giga species, an important species previously believed to have gone extinct in the Philippines due to over harvesting and the destruction of its marine habitats, in partnership with the Western Philippines University (WPU) and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).
The MFI, in a statement, said they released a total of 605 juveniles in the area on October 12. A week earlier, the group conducted the same activity at the Malampaya Sound in Taytay.
Pacifico Beldia, marine biodiversity conservation manager, explained that the recent giant clam releases originated from a discovery of true native species found in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City. The species were previously believed to be extinct but were discovered by the late national scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez in 2017.
“A significant rediscovery that transpired in mid-2017 led to the pioneer and historic in-situ spawning in June 2019 of the Philippines’ native true giant clam Tridacna gigas in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Declared extinct in the 1980’s, six closely guarded individuals lying beneath the waters Dos Palmas Resort in Honda Bay were confirmed by Dr. Gomez himself as native Philippines stock in July 2017,” he said.
The project is a continuing partnership with WPU that began in 2014, Beldia added. With the combined efforts of WPU researchers and scientists from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), the project initially focused on improving abalone and top shell juvenile production for restocking and trial mariculture as conservation enterprise for fisherfolk.
The initiative eventually became the String-of-Pearls Project after confirmatory fieldwork done by the late national scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez in 2017 confirmed the presence of the Philippines’ native Tridacna gigas in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City. These giant clam individuals are believed to be part of wild stock from Ulugan Bay, that were relocated by Dr. Ben Gonzales as part of their conservation efforts back in the early 90’s.
Trial spawning of the giant clams, along with other shell species, took place at the Western Philippines University (WPU) in 2018. These grew into the juvenile clams that were released in Taytay and El Nido early this month.
“It is envisioned that the restocking of marine invertebrate species like abalone, top shell, and various species of giant clams including the pioneering initiative on Philippines’ true giant clam species will benefit all well-managed MPAs and National Parks in MFI focal sites,” he said.
The illegal giant clam trade
When asked how the MFI responds to the recent seizure of illegally traded giant clams in the province, Beldia added that the company has been producing informative materials that will be distributed among their community partners to prevent more giant clam poaching.
“MFI’s instant response was to immediately inform all partners in Northern Palawan that this trade is illegal. We are currently reproducing informative materials from the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) for distribution to our focal coastal communities,” he said.
He added that some of their partner communities were targeted by illegal traders by deceiving them into gathering dead clam shells.
“MFI’s partner communities in El Nido were not spared by this illegal trade. Some members of our partner community organizations fell victim to misinformation from local dealers and buyers that they may gather shells of dead clams for an opportunity to earn,” he said.
Beldia stated that it is the program’s end goal is not only to restore populations of the Tridacna gigas, but of other shell species in the country.
“It is envisioned that the restocking of marine invertebrate species like abalone, top shell, and various species of giant clams including the pioneering initiative on Philippines’ True Giant Clam will benefit all well-managed MPAs and National Parks in MFI focal sites,” he said.
MFI director Karen Agabin added a statement that they have specifically chosen MPAs that are well-managed so clam restocking efforts will be effective.
“The String-of-Pearls project is closely linked to our conservation partnerships with fisherfolk organizations and government agencies that have been our partners since 2012 for the establishment, expansion and management improvement of various MPAs and marine management zones within National Parks in North Palawan and Verde Island Passage where the giant clams, abalone and trochus are being restocked. Restocking will not be undertaken in MPAs that are poorly managed,” she said.