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Helping save PH’s True Giant Clams from extinction

On a quest to remove the Philippines’ native true giant clam species, the Tridacna gigas, out of local extinction, Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI) and its partners are restocking the clams in effectively managed marine-protected areas (MPA’s) in Northern Palawan and Verde Island Passage.

Dubbed 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. 

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

In 2012, MFI partnered with the WPU to help improve the hatchery production of abalone and top shell juveniles to catalyze trial culture as potential livelihood for fisherfolk in MPAs. The initiative evolved into the String of Pearls Project when giant clams were added as focal species through 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 Tridacna gigas species is hard to propagate, thus the need for hatchery facilities. Upon reaching the size of a thumbnail, the baby clams are transferred to nursery sites in the wild and are kept for 8 months to a year before the larger ones 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 the majority of 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. 

MFI has been helping establish, expand, and manage over 335,000 hectares of marine-protected areas (MPAs) and marine management zones with communities, local governments, and national agencies in Palawan, Batangas, and Oriental Mindoro since 2013. 

“This has been one of our major investments,” Agabin said.

“There is a stark contrast between poorly-managed reefs and properly-managed MPAs. If effectively managed, MPAs can help accelerate the restoration and sustainable use of coastal and marine resources.  They can also help regenerate and rebound fisheries of the country,” she added.

In as early as three to five years’ time, an effectively-managed MPA can result in increase in fish abundance, the return of endangered species, a capacitated community to manage natural resources, and more resilient local ecosystems compared to poorly managed reefs. MFI’s conservation strategy for MPAs employs a four-pronged approach: social mobilization and advocacy, socio-economic improvement, ecological assessments, and ecological rehabilitation. The foundation also highlights the importance of conservation through community involvement. 

“The best environment stewards are nearby human dwellers like people who live near the coastlines and relevant ecosystems. They get involved with the planning, decision-making, enforcement and actual implementation. That’s an example of exemplary conservation action,” Agabin said.

To adopt shells and/or marine protected areas (MPAs) visit www.adoptashell.ph and www.adoptmpa.ph

Topics: Malampaya Foundation Inc , String of Pearls Project , marine protected areas , Department of Environment and Natural Resources
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