Satellite images show sea intense coral reef damage due to the poaching of Giant Clams
The Philippines is considering pushing for legal actions against Chinese vessels who illegally harvest giant clams in the Scarborough Shoal located in the West Philippine Sea.
Satellite images show that more than 104 square kilometers of coral reefs have been destroyed by the illegal activity which also carves up the reef in the process. Additionally, China has also ruined around 58 square kilometers of the reef due to building activities to intensify its presence and claim of the area.
“We protest this. This is illegal, and in fact you are also violating conventions on environmental protection, for which we can take legal action,” said Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr, who also complained that the Chinese officials already know about the illegal activity.
China harvests the giant clams as an alternative to ivory. It is used for sculptures at a very high rate. However, there is no price that can match its contribution to the ecosystem.
To harvest the resources, poachers destroy the corals by pulverizing them. Because of this, the clams are not the only ones being destroyed, but also the habitat of sea creatures.
Giant clams are essential in the area’s reef-building as it produces carbonate shell material. This gives the housing for large algae, sea squirts, soft corals, and sponges. Furthermore, it is also considered as the home of many organisms such as filter feeders, zooplankton, and phytoplankton.
“Giant clams potentially counteract eutrophication (nutrient enrichment that typically leads to algal overgrowth) via water filtering and nutrient sequestration. Therefore, they help maintain tolerable/ optimal water conditions for reef organisms,” stated the UP Marine Science Society.
The claim to the large biodiverse area has been widely contested by the Philippines and China in recent years because of its high potential.
The area is also a major trade route. In fact, more than $5.3 trillion worth of international trade passes through it every year. Additionally, it is also believed to contain gas and oil, two of the most prized resources today.