12 Oct2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Nadia says:

    Hi MM. Would you be able to email me the place where you saw the sale of these clams? My husband and I have our connections with local and national BFAR people, so we can help report the matter to the authorities. At the least, the local municipal agricultural office (MAO) should be given a “reprimand” for not enforcing the law or improving awareness about the protection of these species among community members.

    Oct 12, 2013 | 2:50 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    Nadia, Pandanon island between Cebu and Bohol, it’s a popular destination for day tourists on bancas. I was surprised to see how many of these were on offer that day, along with several other shells that I think are off limits as well, such as tritons. Local banca operators should also be approached by BFAR folks to educate them on what is and what is not acceptable seafood for them to be offering passengers, particularly foreign tourists who are a bit more clueless…

    Oct 12, 2013 | 2:59 pm

     
  3. Rona Y says:

    This reminds me of the walls in some of my relatives homes in the Philippines–made of bricks of white coral. I cringe to think of all the coral reefs that were destroyed to make these homes.

    Oct 12, 2013 | 7:41 pm

     
  4. Marketman says:

    Rona, with coral bricks, if I am not mistaken, some of them are actually “quarried” from old coral deposits already considered on the mainland or island, not from active or live reefs, so it wouldn’t be too bad if that were the case. The same way one quarries say marble from romblon…

    Oct 13, 2013 | 6:33 am

     
  5. Ken_L says:

    Sadly, while consumer awareness campaigns are admirable, they have not proven to be effective (witness the continuing strong demand for everything from ivory to marine turtles). Giant clam meat is sometimes processed with a small circular punch and sold in shops as scallops to disguise its origin. There is really no way to conserve endangered species other than rigorous enforcement by the government where the species are potentially harvested … something which I fear is unlikely to reach the top of the priority list in The Philippines any time soon.

    Oct 13, 2013 | 7:10 am

     
  6. Dragon says:

    What about the pawikan? Isn’t that endangered too? I am in a bit of a quandary as a relative, who used to hold the local top office up north, had the gall to post photos eating pawikan eggs. I am so boiling!

    Oct 13, 2013 | 1:47 pm

     
  7. Marketman says:

    Dragon, YES, turtles are on the endangered list, several types of them, mostly sea turtles. And they should be protected as well… :(

    Oct 13, 2013 | 4:46 pm

     
  8. Lou says:

    The kinilaw looks great but thank you for creating awareness.

    Oct 13, 2013 | 8:19 pm

     
  9. corrine says:

    My husband and I were in Bantayan Islands last July. We were offered by the boatman those giant clams because he said he knows where to buy them. I declined and told him that they are endangered. I saw the most amazing spot in Palawan where there were giant clams…adult ones. It was an amazing sight. But the waters were deep were they were.

    Oct 13, 2013 | 8:32 pm

     
  10. Grace says:

    They are called “giant taklobos”, aren’t they? We saw plenty at Coron Island. They were put near the shore, (maybe about 12 to 15 feet deep), so that tourists could see them when they snorkel. Unforgettable sight. I think many fishermen in Coron grow them. We visited many sites with taklobo/coral gardens.

    Oct 14, 2013 | 3:08 pm

     
  11. kristin says:

    Hi MM, in the topic of conservation..here is another, still from the Island of Cebu …
    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2013/10/carcartrees.jpg …its the case of 8 – 100 year old trees as road project casualties in the towns of Naga City to Carcar City, on a road widening project…this is really so sad to think about..

    Oct 15, 2013 | 6:50 pm

     
  12. Marketman says:

    kristin, I know, I love those trees, and I think even featured them in a post several years ago on a road trip down South. I wish there was another way, but I do also see the other side, that road or route does need to be expanded…

    Oct 15, 2013 | 7:40 pm

     

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