Helping the Philippines’ true native giant clam out of extinction

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    On a quest to remove the Philippines’ true native giant clam species, scientifically called the Tridacna gigas, out of local extinction, Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI) and partners are ramping up catalytic restocking of the said species in effectively managed marine-protected areas (MPAs) in Northern Palawan and Verde Island Passage.

    Tagged as the String of Pearls project, the initiative aims to help revive the natural stocks of giant clams, abalone, and top shell in select Philippine reefs through marine restocking in partnership with the Western Philippine University (WPU), the Palawan State University, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

     In 2012, MFI partnered with the WPU to help improve the hatchery production of abalone and topshell juveniles to catalyze trial culture as potential livelihood for fisherfolk and stock enhancement in MPAs. The work evolved as the String of Pearls Project when giant clams were added as focal species thru the guidance of the late MFI Trustee and National Scientist Dr. Edgardo Gomez. In 2017, after a lead from WPU, five breeders of Tridacna gigas were confirmed by Dr. Gomez as Philippine-native. Declared to be locally-extinct since the 1980s, the five healthy clam breeders have been thriving well under the care of a private resort in Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

    Due to its low population and survival rate of less than 1 percent in the wild, the Philippine-native Tridacna gigas species is hard to propagate thus the need for hatchery facilities. Upon reaching the size of a thumbnail (~20mm), the baby clams are transferred to nursery sites in the wild and kept for 8 months to a year before the larger individuals (>20cm) are carefully selected and released into the wild.

    MFI and its partner institutions and representatives from the private resort spearheaded the first in-situ spawning of the clam species to help increase their number. The hatchery facility of the WPU in Binduyan, Puerto Princesa City houses majority of the activities for the String of Pearls Project. As of February 2021, a total of 2,300 clams have been restocked in various MPAs in Northern Palawan.

    Underscoring the project’s continuity, Karen Agabin, MFI executive director, said, “We at MFI, together with our advocacy partners, envision a wider distribution of the Philippines’ true native giant clam Tridacna gigas throughout the country’s protected reefs by 2025. With the continued protection of restocked reefs in effectively-managed MPAs, the Philippines’ true native giant clam Tridacna gigas may come out of extinction status in 15 to 20 years.”