'Filipino scientists seeded giant clams, Chinese fishermen stole them'


Posted at Apr 26 2019 10:17 AM

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MANILA - Filipino scientists seeded giant clams in the Scarborough Shoal in the late 1980s, only for Chinese fishermen to steal them decades later, a maritime affairs expert said Friday. 

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said marine biologist Ed Gomez was able to invent a process to breed giant clams after overexploitation of giant clams resulted in scarcity of most indigenous species. 

"In the late 1980s, we seeded giant clam shells in that area because this is an endangered species," he told radio DZMM. 

An ABS-CBN exclusive report, however, showed that Chinese are mass harvesting giant clams in Scarborough Shoal, undoing the work of Filipino scientists. 

"Chinese fishermen lang ang gumagawa niyan. We planted those giant clams," Batongbacal said. 

Batongbacal said giant clams are very important in reef build-up as well as providing food for marine organisms such as mollusks, echinoderms, crustaceans, flatworms, and fishes. 

"Kung mawawala ang taklobo, baka hindi na magtagal ang ating coral reefs," he said. 

He also pointed out that Chinese fishermen do not eat giant clams but just throw away the meat and taking the shells. 

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).

"Ang ginagawa ng Chinese, hinhukay nila ang coral reefs sinisira nila 'yun para makuha ang taklobo," Batongbacal said. 

He said the Philippine government should ask Beijing to remove Chinese fishing vessels in the area and stop removing the giant clams. "They are taking everything," he said.

RADIO DZMM, April 26, 2019