Palau unveils newly improved mariculture center
The North Pacific island nation of Palau unveiled what it is calling the largest giant clam seed production center in the world on 12 April.
The newly renovated mariculture center, expanded through a USD 6.6 million (EUR 5.9 million) grant from the Japanese government, can now produce an estimated one million seedlings a year.
Renovations of the facility began in 2016, and the new center includes a marine resource library, more office space for staff and technicians, two research labs, a gift shop, and a seedling facility that will increase production from 200,000 seedlings before the modernization.
Palau Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism Minister Umiich Sengebau said the giant clam represents a “keystone species for domestic food security and artisanal livelihoods for Palauans.”
“This new PMDC will play a vital role in supporting both of these aspects of our lives, promoting livelihood, diversification, and strengthening our ability to provide fresh, sustainably grown local specialties to our residents and visiting populations,” Sengebau said.
Sengebau said the center will take the pressure off wild fisheries and is another source of livelihood for a small country such as Palau. He said the new facility will also assist some locals farmers make more money from giant clams that exported for the aquarium trade and help support to restock the wild population of the slow-growing clams in the country.
Farming giant clams can be a slow process and theft has been the main challenge faced by the farmers in Palau.
Palau’s Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) Director Leon Remengesau said the current seedlings are expected to grow to up to three centimeters in length and will be ready for distribution by September 2019.
Director Remengesau said the giant clam aquarium trade can be a lucrative business for many locals, with a single farmer reportedly earning USD 80,000 (EUR 71,100) per year. The giant clams are mostly exported to the United States, Germany, China, Singapore, Austria, and England.
According to a 2017 government report, 90 percent of giant clams exported that year were used for commercial purposes, with 10 percent for personal use and 1 percent for scientific purposes. In 2017, there were 12,771 giant clams exported from Palau.