'Jade of the sea': Giant clams in Palawan used as ivory substitute, conservationist warns

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 19 2021 11:11 AM

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MANILA - Giant clams being harvested illegally in Palawan are being used as substitute for ivory, a conservationist warned Monday.

Lawyer Teodoro Jose Matta, executive director of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, said the clams are being smuggled in Southeast Asia and Europe.

A Science magazine article earlier said translucent white shells of giant clams, often dubbed as the "jade of the sea", have emerged as an alternative to ivory from elephant tusks. Some of the shells are sold for US$3,000 or P155,000 to around $12,000 (P621,000).

A maritime affairs expert has said Chinese fishermen do not eat giant clams but just throw away the meat and take the shells. 

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On Friday, authorities seized some 200 tons of giant clam shells worth nearly P1.2 billion in in Green Island, Barangay Tumarbong, Roxas, Palawan.

Four people were charged with violating Republic Act 9147 or Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act for collecting and trading the giant clams, locally known as taklobo.

In the interview, Matta said a big syndicate could be responsible for the smuggling of giant clams in the area.

"Malaki po. Hindi lang sa Palawan. Claim ng grupo na ito ay buong Pilipinas operational nila, mas lalo na sa Mindanao," he said.

(They are big. Not only in Palawan. The group claims they are operating all over the Philippines, especially in Mindanao.)

Matta dismissed claims that collection of giant clam shells was authorized by the provincial government. Violators may face jail term of up to 2 years and a fine of up to P200,000.