Law Enforcement Seizes $25 Million in Poached Giant Clam Shells in Philippines

The poaching reflects a growing trend

Giant clam shells
These clam shells are indeed pretty giant.
Rod Waddington, CC BY-SA 2.0

What do you do if you’re a poacher looking to work around national bans on trading in ivory? For some, the answer involves taking to the ocean and seeking out giant clams, whose shells can make for a passable substitute used in a variety of objects and products. Giant clams are massive and can weigh up to 550 pounds, with some of their shells measuring up at over 4 feet in width.

The waters around the Philippines are a prime location to find giant clams — and, it turns out, to find the people who are illegally harvesting them. The Guardian reports that law enforcement in the province of Palawan recently arrested 4 suspects for poaching giant clams. The raid turned up approximately 200 tons of shells, valued at $25 million.

Giant clams are an endangered species, and they occupy an important place in the marine ecosystem — making the removal of so many from the water especially dangerous. The Guardian notes that killing an endangered species can result in a 12-year jail sentence.

Jovic Fabello from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development had strong words to say about the poaching. “Taking the giant clams from their natural habitat is a form of inter-generational crime,” Fabello said. He also noted that poaching like this is on the rise — an alarming statistic for those concerned with the future of the region’s environment.

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