A house bill that intends to ensure the protection and repopulation of giant clams was referred back to OEK with additional proposed improvements.

The bill states that “The Olbiil Era Kelulau finds that the number of giant clams in the Republic’s waters has been declining at an alarming rate. While current law prohibits the exports of certain giant clams with a limited exception for cultured species, this prohibition does not account for the fact that the sale of giant clams within the Republic’s borders is a major cause for the decline of these vulnerable creatures.”

In particular, the Oktang also knows as the True Giant Clam are rarely seen in Palau waters. This bill intends to protect the True Giant Clam, Fluted Giant Clam, Elongate Giant Clam, Smooth Giant Clam, Bear Claw Giant Clam, and China Giant Clam.

The OEK cited the already existing Giant Clam Sustainability Fund as a necessary action for the giant clam’s sustainability. However, they believe that more measures are needed to replenish the giant clams.

The first step is to ascertain the current population by conducting surveys of the giant clam which will require collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism along with all state governments.

PAN sites and other state sites around Palau will be designated as spots for the replenishment of the giant clams. It will be the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism’s responsibility to dedicate resources and implement programs that will benefit the success of the giant clam replenishing project.

It will be prohibited to export, sell, take, and purchase giant clams. However, collecting clams for research purposes or bred in captivity at an aquaculture and mariculture farm by a person licensed by the Minister are allowed.

A hefty fine ranging from $250 (first offense) to $5,000 (more than three offense) including possible jail time will be placed on those that go against the prohibited acts.

In order to help with this project further, the bill states that there will be a fund within the National Treasury known as the Giant Clam Sustainability Fund. The sources of this fund will come from fees received by the processing of the Bureau of Marine Resources Marine Export Declaration Form and related inspections, the issuance of endangered species import/export certificates, and the production of giant clam seeds distributed to the Republic’s cultured clam farmers shall be deposited.

President Remengesau in his referral letter said he agreed with OEK that “although we protect our famous giant clams from export, sale within Palau is a major cause of decline of these vulnerable creatures” and that the proposed changes “are intended to strengthen the good work you have done.”

Proposed amendments to the bill include recommendation to remove the exemption for public market sale.  Current bill allows for sale of wild giant clams in public markets which will only drive the sale of wild giant clams to private persons and restaurants through public markets.

In addition, the bill will mandate state governments to pass laws to license harvest of giant clam and to work in tandem with Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment & Tourism on regulations over harvesting and culturing the giant clams. (Telbakes Yano)