PALAWAN, Philippines — Around 200 tonnes of illegally harvested giant clam shells worth nearly P1 Billion ($25 million) have been seized in Palawan a Province in the Philippines.
The seizure is one of the largest ever hauls of the endangered species.
Four suspects have been arrested on an island in the ecologically protected province of Palawan.
Giant clams can grow larger than one metre across, and weigh up to 250kg. They are seen as vital to the local marine ecosystem.
The Philippines is home to most of the world’s giant tropical clam species which China was also trying to harvest for the past couple of months when they occupied West Philippine Sea.
Jovic Fabello, spokesman for the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said that the seized shells included Tridacna gigas, the world’s largest clam.
“Taking the giant clams from their natural habitat is a form of inter-generational crime,” he told the AFP news agency.
“It will permanently affect the marine ecosystem and future generations will be deprived of the benefits accruing from it,” he added.
Tridacna gigas contain marine algae which are a food source for many of the fish species eaten by humans. They are increasingly vulnerable to poaching, both for their meat and shells, which are used as a replacement for ivory in jewellery and decorations.
In the Philippines, killing endangered species can lead to prison sentences of up to 12 years and fines of up to a million pesos ($20,000).
Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan / AdChoiceTV News (Manila)