Philippine authorities on Friday announced the seizure of giant clams worth 2.7 million euros, shellfish highly prized by smugglers since the ivory trade ban.
Some 80 tons of tropical clams were discovered in a village in the Palawan archipelago (west), during one of the largest operations of this type ever organized in the country, according to the authorities.
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The Philippines has some of the world's largest tropical clam species, but they are under threat due to increased poaching.
According to conservationists, these shells have replaced the ivory trade, which is officially banned.
They are used in particular to make jewelry, as well as decorative objects such as chandeliers.
Military, coast guard and environmental officials raided several homes on Johnson Island on Wednesday.
They unearthed more than 300 clams, worth around 2.7 million euros on the black market.
"Our biggest catch"
Among them, giant tridacnes or giant clams, up to 1.4 meters long, which are a protected species because in danger of extinction.
The village chief will be prosecuted for supervising this illegal collection of seashells, said Jovic Fabello, spokesperson for the Palawan government's conservation council.
This is our biggest catch so far,
” he said.
The collection of these 80 tonnes of shellfish took between six months and a year, a spokeswoman for the coast guard told AFP.
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.
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Philippine fishing regulations prohibit collecting giant clams, which are considered an endangered species.
Offenders face penalties of up to eight years in prison and fines of up to 50,000 euros.
Giant clams are an important ecological element for coral reefs, which are home to 30% of the animal and plant species of the oceans but are threatened with extinction.