Several species of giant clams in the Philippines have been on the endangered species list for a few years now, so under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should we EAT giant clams, PERIOD. I am a carnivore who also loves vegetables, fruits and nuts and I understand that I am often killing another living being in order to eat it. And just as I appreciate an animal giving its life up for my sustenance and eating pleasure, I equally believe that plants that were harvested alive (as opposed to say fallen fruit or nuts) then turned into a salad or cooked in a stir-fry have ALSO lost their lives just as brutally. I usually eat farm-raised protein, but I DO eat wild things as well… fish and shellfish from the sea, an occasional bird/fowl from the air, venison and other four-legged animals, and very rarely, crickets and insects. I also agree that folks who live by the sea shore and who have, for generations, collected their food from the sea, have a right to do that, but I DRAW the line when a species is at RISK of extinction, or even before that, when we are clearly consuming it at an unsustainable pace… I photographed this baby giant clam at a beach just an hour by banca from Cebu City. The vendor had several of them for sale for a few hundred pesos each for tourists (primarily Filipinos, Koreans and Chinese) arriving to spend the day (and lunch) at the beach.
At PHP300 or so per clam, I offered to buy them off the vendor and have them returned to the sea, but other folks on the island said they needed to be in relatively shallow waters, and would be easily re-harvested. It’s a condition of their survival that they will have difficulty surviving unless humans chose to eschew their consumption. They thrive in shallow waters, often in plain sight, and can’t really move themselves to hide… Growing up, my mother had half a dozen ginormous giant clam shells in our garden, each weighed perhaps 20-30 kilos or more. At the time, they were still plentiful in local seas, and I never thought much about them. I regret not keeping one or two of the shells, as you can no longer legally acquire them unless antique or several decades old at least and they have gone from kitschy to naturally unique. The same goes for whole tortoise shells from 50 years ago when they too were plentiful and made the most beautiful eyeglass frames or combs or jewelry boxes.
The vendors opened up the shells, exposing the most amazing multicolored lip (stunning hues of blues and greens and black) and a meaty interior that looked like soft squid or perhaps even scallop meat. The white parts were chopped up and made into a kinilaw and served in their shells. Bummer. The only way to put a stop to their consumption until stocks are well revived is to educate locals and tourists alike to chose some other shellfish for the time being. I suspect they don’t taste so uniquely different that kinilaw na scallops or pusit or shrimp wouldn’t be an acceptable alternative. There are a growing number of giant clam “farms” or coves/bays where they are being propagated and protected so there is some hope. In the meantime, please make sure you encourage everyone you know to avoid eating giant clams (baby or otherwise) until their stocks in the wild recover to very healthy levels. That will take more than our remaining lifetime, I suspect. Thanks.