Philippines Seizes Huge Haul of Illegally Harvested Giant Clam Shells

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
2021-03-05
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Philippines Seizes Huge Haul of Illegally Harvested Giant Clam Shells Giant clam shells are seen in a remote village in the western Philippine island province of Palawan, in this photo provided by Philippine authorities, March 5, 2021.
Handout/Philippine Coast Guard

The Philippine Coast Guard said Friday it had seized more than 80 tons of illegally harvested giant clam shells worth over U.S. $3 million dollars, in what is considered the largest haul of its type.

Local environmental authorities worked with the coast guard, the Philippine Marines and other authorities to raid a home on Johnson Island, in the remote island province of Palawan, where the 324 giant clam shells were found on Wednesday, officials said.

A local village chief faces arrest on suspicion of the illegal harvesting of the clams, which is “the biggest haul of its kind in Palawan,” the coast guard said in a statement.

“The Philippine Coast Guard has seized a total of 324 pieces of giant clam shells weighing 80 tons,” the coast guard said in a statement.

“Harvesting endangered claims locally known as ‘taklobo’ is prohibited under Republic Act No. 10654 of the Philippine fisheries code of 1998,” the statement, noting that those convicted of violating the law could be sentences to eight years in prison.

The Philippine archipelago is home to many of the world’s giant clam species. They are frequently hunted illegally by both foreign and Filipino poachers, the coastal security agency said.

Clam shells are used to make products such as chandeliers or jewelry, and conservationists say they have been in high demand because of stricter enforcement of the illegal global trade in ivory.

Among the clam species found on Johnson Island was the Tridacna gigas, the world’s biggest clam, whose shell can grow up to five feet long, according to Agence France-Presse. They are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The coast guard said the local village chief would be charged for poaching.

Palawan, in the Philippines’ western flank, has long been considered the last frontier because of its lush mangroves, pristine beaches and jungle cover. But its rich biodiversity has attracted many wildlife poachers and hunters. Illegal traders have been caught selling endangered species, including giant turtles and pangolins.

The Palawan chain is the third largest island group in the Philippines, and is home to 49 animal and 56 plant species that are threatened with global extinction, according to the IUCN.

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