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November 30, 2017

Here We Go Again!

Several years after my attempts at coral farming in the Solomon Islands, I was offered an opportunity to be involved with the start of a clam farm in French Polynesia.

MAC TERZICH, DVM, ACPV

Several years after my attempts at coral farming in the Solomon Islands, I was offered an opportunity to be involved with the start of a clam farm in French Polynesia. Being a lifelong reef hobbyist and of an adventurous spirit, I once again had the chance to start a new journey into the unknown!

One day in 2010 I received a call from someone in Tahiti. The gentleman with a French accent on the other end of the phone asked me if I would be interested in partnering with him to collect clams and start a clam farm in French Polynesia. At first I really thought it was one of my grown sons playing a trick on me! After all, who gets a call out of the blue from Tahiti? As we spoke a while longer I eventually convinced myself it was not my son pretending with a French accent. The caller explained that he was involved in the black pearl oyster industry and thought that with his experience and equipment he might be able to supply Tridacna clams to the aquarium industry, but he had no experience in the aquarium trade and was potentially looking for a partner or at least a guide. Knowing that there were very few places in the world that could supply clams, I agreed to consider the idea while thinking “here we go again”!

With several subsequent calls and some online research, I agreed to visit my new potential partner in Tahiti. I found out that French Polynesia has the largest natural population of Tridacna maxima clams in the world with over 500 million estimated to inhabit the area by a recent report from their local university.

"I found out that French Polynesia has the largest natural population of Tridacna maxima clams in the world with over 500 million estimated to inhabit the area by a recent report from their local university."

Unlike my tortuous journey to the Solomon Islands years earlier that took 47 hours to accomplish and was filled with uncertainty, it was easy, relatively quick, and straightforward to get to Tahiti. The trip would involve just a cross-country flight from Washington DC to Los Angeles and then one 8-hour flight to Tahiti on Air Tahiti airlines. My research found that the problems we had in the Solomon Islands with very limited air cargo space would never be a problem from Tahiti because it was a major tourist destination with multiple daily flights of large aircraft, plus those planes had lots of empty cargo space the airline would love to fill. Also, political strife was not a concern because as the name implies French Polynesia, that includes well known islands such as Tahiti and Bora Bora, is a part of France and has a stable local government. However, there is a somewhat convoluted governing process when you have a group of islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean being controlled by a European government on the other side of the world.

Within a couple months of that surprise phone call I was on my way to Tahiti to start a new adventure. This time, unlike during my Solomon Island adventures, I brought along as much Scuba gear as I could pack because I knew that being a major tourist destination getting air tanks and other diving gear would not be an issue. Subsequently I did find out that Scuba was not allowed to be used to actually collect animals, but could be used during the research and discovery phases of our project.

After a pleasant flight into Tahiti I was greeted by my host and invited to stay with him at his facility located right on the ocean in Tahiti. I quickly discovered that Tahiti was not as remote nor as primitive as the Solomon Islands. Tahiti is a modern and sophisticated island with all the conveniences of home. My future partner’s home was simple yet comfortable. His French mother decided to stay at his home, she lives in another part of Tahiti, to be our host and chef during my 2-week stay. I knew I was in for some fabulous meals and I can tell you in that regard I was not disappointed!

My partner had accumulated several 300 gallon plastic tanks and rigged up a system to pump water from the lagoon surrounding his property into his numerous tanks including a holding tank that would be used for holding and treating packing water. The packing water tank was set up with ozone for purification and we worked on testing for pH, alkalinity, and other parameters so he could monitor his systems. With the land based side of the project well under control we began our explorations.

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