In a raid in the Philippines, giant oysters that were considered to be threatened were confiscated at a value of more than 20 million euros. As the Coast Guard announced on Saturday, four suspects have been arrested on a remote island in the Sulu Sea. Around 200 tons of giant clams are said to have been confiscated – more than any previous operation.
Giant oysters are increasingly being used as a substitute for ivory, now that the trade in elephant tusks is much more stringent worldwide. The largest specimens, called giant clams (Tridacna gigas), reach 1.30 meters in height and weigh 250 kg. They provide a habitat for algae, which in turn feed many fish.
“The removal of giant oysters from their natural habitat is a multi-generational crime,” said a spokesperson for the Palawan Region’s Sustainable Development Council. The marine ecosystem is being harmed, which will prevent future generations from using it. “These people are extracting the giant oysters and killing them,” the spokesman said.
Giant clams are sold on the black market. Smugglers continue to amass more stocks. Earrings and candlesticks, for example, are made of seashells. Killing endangered species in the Philippines can be punished with imprisonment of up to twelve years and fines in excess of 17,000 euros.