Global demand for Palau’s farmed giant clams

2015-10-11T00:00:00Z

Palau’s Giant Clams as aquarium ornamentals is becoming more popular with buyers in the United States, Japan, France, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  <!--more-->

Bernice Ngirkelau of Palau Aquatics is currently in New Zealand on a five-day Pacific Small Island States Food &amp; Beverage Exploratory Trade Mission. She is joined by delegates from the Cook Islands, Niue, Republic of Marshall Islands and Tuvalu.

[caption id="attachment_7514" align="alignleft" width="400"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_1bernice_ngakirlau_-large.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-7514" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_1bernice_ngakirlau_-large.jpg" alt="Bernice Ngakirlau of Palau Aquatics is in New Zealand as part of the six nation Small Island States F&amp;B Exporters Exploratory Mission." width="400" height="267" /></a> Bernice Ngakirlau of Palau Aquatics is in New Zealand as part of the six nation Small Island States F&amp;B Exporters Exploratory Mission.[/caption]

Ms Ngirkelau is representing the Palau Aquaculture Association who are working with Palau Aquatics, a sister-company to the non-profit Palau Women’s Cooperative. Together these organisations train women in Palau to farm mangrove crabs and provides them with equipment to start their own farm. The company then collects the harvested crabs from the women and packs and ships them to local restaurants. The company wants to expand to meet the overseas demand for sustainably farmed seafood.

Ms Ngirkelau said the story of Palau’s first hatchery began in the 1970s by American Marine Biologist Dr James McVey, Director of the Bureau of Marine Resources, Palau.

The company is now owned by the national government in association with a private sector company and is exporting live clams throughout the world. Cultured giant clams are grown in the hatchery until they reach 2-4 centimetres after some seven years and then sold to buyers for US$5-$7 each.

Palau is part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to ensure that international trade in species of wild animals does not threaten their survival. Palau requires a permit for cultured clams grown in a hatchery and certification before overseas exporting.

Ms Ngirkelau said the giant clams were a very valuable resource to the people of Palau. “They are used as food security and are highly valued by the people of Palau.”  Although wild clams are prohibited from being exported, farmed giant clams can be harvested locally for their meat and exported overseas after being certified first. There are seven giant clam species in the world says Ms Ngirkelau and all seven species are found in Palau.

However, overfishing has depleted the once plentiful stocks. Ms Ngirkelau recalls a time 10-15 years ago, when Palau’s reefs were teeming with the aquatic giants. One had to tread carefully on the reef at low tide for fear of one clamping shut on an unsuspecting limb. But these days there are hardly any and reef walkers can walk freely at low tide without encountering any.

[caption id="attachment_7515" align="alignright" width="400"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_img_2500.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-7515" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/rsz_img_2500.jpg" alt="Some of the clam shells on display." width="400" height="203" /></a> Some of the clam shells on display.[/caption]

Although Palau’s laws prevent international export of wild giant clams, there are no laws limiting local harvesting and high demand from restaurants, hotels and markets has contributed to the depletion in giant clam stocks. Individual states of Palau, however, can establish designated conservation areas and some have done so.

The Palau Government took a big step toward conservation last year in October and announced the establishment of the largest marine sanctuary in the world. The news was heralded worldwide gaining international media attention and widespread support from celebrity conservationists such as Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines. An Eco-symposium was also held to identify the needs and challenges in aquaculture farming with a view towards regulations and policies to protect wild clams.

Palau’s government has also developed policies promoting Eco-tourism. A novel and exciting new venture is planned for early next year where tourists can purchase an infant giant clam farmed in a hatchery. The clam would be transferred to a designated reef where it would be replanted and allowed to live out its days growing to full size. Buyers would get a participation certificate but best of all, they can find their very own giant clam growing in Palau’s waters via Google Earth.

That initiative is run by eco-tourism company McVey and Kids Enterprise or MAKE Belias Eco-Tourism, a joint venture with the Palau Government aimed at reseeding the reefs with giant clams. About 1000 giant clams will be grown annually in the Airai State designated area. Other government conservation policies include analysing the regeneration of the giant clam over a 10 year period.

For more information on the Pacific Small Island States Food and Beverage Exploratory Trade Mission please contact Pacific Trade &amp; Invest Trade Manager Teremoana Mato at mona.m@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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