Philippines: record seizure of 200 tonnes of giant seashells

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Philippine authorities on Saturday announced the record seizure of 200 tons of giant shellfish, including giant clams, endangered species whose value, for such a quantity, would be nearly $ 25 million on the black market.

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These immense bivalve molluscs, among the largest in the world, are sought after to replace the now banned ivory, and environmentalists are alarmed by this increasingly important poaching, and devastating for the marine ecosystem.

At sea, these giant shells are indeed home to all kinds of algae that are a source of food for a large number of fish, including those caught by humans.

Among the hundreds of shells seized on Friday in the province of Palawan are many giant tridacnes or giant clams (Tridacna gigas), up to 1.30 m long and weighing up to 250 kg, which are a protected species because in danger of extinction.

“Removing these giant seashells from their natural habitat is sort of an intergenerational crime,” Jovic Fabello of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development told AFP.

“This will permanently affect the marine ecosystem and future generations will be deprived of its resources,” he added.

Four suspects were arrested during this seizure which greatly exceeds the 80 tonnes of that of last month in the same region, which was one of the most important carried out so far.

The Palawan archipelago is very rich in terms of biodiversity, but it is also a place where illegal trade in pangolins, sea turtles and wild birds takes place.

Philippine fishing regulations prohibit collecting giant shellfish, considered an endangered species. Offenders face penalties of up to eight years in prison and fines of up to 50,000 euros.