Figure 5 Top three importers of live and wildsourced clams

Totals are derived from importers' data.

H 50

H 50

1 I 1993 94

99 00 2001

1 I 1993 94

99 00 2001

Several source countries have also implemented legislation to better manage and protect their giant clam stocks. In 1996, the Philippines, previously dominating exports for the international shell trade and one of the main suppliers of live clams for the international aquarium trade, adopted a total prohibition on all exports of giant clam82. The Solomon Islands reported that only exports of cultured giant clams were allowed, while with help from the International Marinelife Alliance, the government of Vanuatu recently banned collection and exports of wild specimens of T. crocea for the aquarium trade and proposed the establishment of quotas for collection of other giant clam species on outer islands87.

Wild stocks of giant clams (especially of the largest species T. gigas, T. derasa and T. tevoroa) have experienced drastic declines over the last 20-30 years as a result of high levels of exploitation for subsistence purposes, and probably to a greater extent due to commercial harvesting for their meat and shells. However, the demand for live giant clams for aquaria has also grown considerably in recent years. Figures for the extent of the trade are patchy and fluctuate considerably between years (see Table 12, p 31), but CITES data show that total exports of giant clams (all species included) have significantly increased from a total of 48,642 individuals in 1993 to 126,715 individuals in 2001. In 1993, wild-caught giant clams represented 20 per cent of all live specimens, versus 15 per cent originating from mariculture facilities. In 2001, 76 per cent of all giant clams in trade as marine ornamentals had been caught in the wild, whereas 22 per cent had been reared.

Although maricultured clams sold for the aquarium trade command the highest prices, hobbyists often prefer wild-caught specimens, as farmed individuals tend to have less highly coloured mantles45. However, advances in selective breeding techniques have meant that clams can now be bred for brighter mantle colours. Pacific island nations such as (ranked in order of importance) the Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Tonga are the main exporters of live captive-bred giant clams.

Based on CITES data from 1993 to 2001, the major source countries of live wild-sourced giant clams for the aquarium trade are Viet Nam, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. However, the role of individual countries changed considerably over those years. With exports from the Philippines being banned in 1996, exports from other source countries increased slightly (with the exception of the Solomon Islands whose trade has decreased) allowing Viet Nam to dominate exports as early as 1998 (see Figure 4, p 31).

The main importers of giant clams are the United States, the EU and Hong Kong (using CITES data from 1999 onwards). Although the United States used to dominate imports of live giant clams, the total number of specimens imported into the EU has been greater than numbers imported into the United States since 1999 (see Figure 5).

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