Return of the giant clams

Giant clams are making their way back into waters off the city after decades of uncontrolled exploitation.

An award-winning marine research centre here will release 500 giant clams into the sea after three long years of breeding and nurturing the natural sea water-filtering creature.

The Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC) at Gaya Island, a 15-minute boat ride from the city, will sporadically release the three-inch giant clams in selected ocean nurseries during its month-long marine awareness month starting tomorrow.

Besides the clams, the oceanic research centre, which is attached to the Gayana Eco Resort at the island, will integrate 1,000 corals – which it has planted and looked after – into the reefs off the island and city.

Project director Alvin Wong said his team of marine biologists and support staff was eager to release the clams back into the sea.

“Hopefully, this first batch will make it. We will monitor their progress as we continue to produce more giant clams,” said Wong, adding that they had 2,000 more giant clams in their nursery.

“We chose giant clams for our Save the Giants programme because they are endangered, slow to grow and important in producing oxygen into the marine ecosystem,” he said.

Wong said the first stage of the project involved work to spawn the larvae and taking care of them until these were ready to survive in ocean nurseries.

He said the public must play their part to protect the marine environment by not polluting the sea or buying clams.

MERC, awarded the Most Innovative Tourist Attraction Award at the Malaysia Tourism Awards 2008/2009, is the only centre in Malaysia to have spawned giant clam spats.

As part of the marine awareness programme, he said MERC would also be hosting schoolchildren and non-governmental organisations to inculcate in them the awareness for marine conservation.

There will also be a beach concert by Irish crooner Ronan Keating at sister resort Bunga Raya Island Resort on the other side of the island tomorrow for the programme.

Source: The Star (By Durie Rainer Fong)