As we were exploring and collecting the clams we noticed some unusual and beautiful corals that I had not seen anywhere else in the world before.
After a couple of days of collecting clams in Tubai we packed them carefully for shipment back to Tahiti and the crew awaiting their arrival. The clams would be there in just a couple hours and then put away into the already set up 300 gallon tanks that had screens set up in them to allow for the clams to become settled in without being able to attach their foot so they could be easily removed for shipment later to the US. The crew would scrub the shells of each clam to remove any unwanted pests or algae and then carefully arrange them in the tanks. Within a couple weeks the clams would be ready to export.
In all, we collected several hundred beautiful and colorful maxima clams from the millions available. We used a measuring device that we could fit each clam into to determine is correct size since we were not allowed to collect any that were smaller than 4.5 inches and we certainly did not want to ship any that were larger than about 6 inches maximum. We knew that ideally hobbyists wanted clams in the size range of 2.5-4 inches, but this was impossible with these wild collected clams since it was illegal to collect them that small. Our plan was to collect and sell these wild clams to help fund our farming project.
We must remember that these clams are used as food by the native folks and also exported to nearby islands and nations as a protein source. The week after I visited they expected a visit from the US Secretary of State and among the many discussion topics clams were on the agenda because of their strategic importance as a protein source for China and other countries the US was concerned about. In local stores the very same clams we wish to keep in our aquariums are sold in plastic bags, without shells, as something to prepare for a simple dinner.
As we were exploring and collecting the clams we noticed some unusual and beautiful corals that I had not seen anywhere else in the world before. These included truly rainbow colored Acropora, blue polyped Pachyseris, dozens of different encrusting Montipora with various colored polyps and contrasting background colors, pink polyp yellow Cyphastrea, unusual Favia and Favites, brightly colored Pocillopora, and many others. I inquired if we might be able to propagate these corals that have never been seen before in the aquarium trade. Just as with the clams, corals are considered endangered animals and require special permits to be able to export them and are inspected upon arrival into the US to be sure of full compliance with all rules and regulations. My partner was unaware of the current situation with permits, but he did have contact in the federal legislature that might be able to help us once we got back to Tahiti. So, with our many clams safely packed up and shipped back to Tahiti we gathered some samples of various odd corals and brought them back to start to learn about permits and for me to demonstrate to my partner how to propagate them.
"My partner was unaware of the current situation with permits, but he did have contact in the federal legislature that might be able to help us once we got back to Tahiti. So, with our many clams safely packed up and shipped back to Tahiti we gathered some samples of various odd corals and brought them back to start to learn about permits and for me to demonstrate to my partner how to propagate them."
Once we were back in Tahiti we noted how well our clams were adjusting to their new life in the 300 gallon tanks. All were opened well with excellent mantle extension and were very reactive to shadows and light changes. Healthy clams will close quickly when a shadow is cast upon them from above, image if a fish was approaching to feast on them, a healthy clam will close it’s shell to prevent it from being dinner for fishing predators. Knowing our clams were safe and happy our thoughts moved toward the possibility of coral propagation and what other details we need to prepare for starting to propagate the clams so we would have smaller clams available in the future that would be more desirable for the home aquarium trade.
To our surprise, our contact in the government had thought so highly of our project that he arranged a meeting for us with the President of French Polynesia and the entire legislature. I felt humbled and honored to meet with the President and we discussed at length our potential project to raise clams and possibly corals. He informed me that some laws would need to be changed to allow for export of smaller clams in the range we wanted even though these would be cultured clams once we got our farming project underway, but for propagation and export of corals we would need to work with the government in France since that involved international treaties and CITES regulations. He and the legislature were fully supportive of our plan for sustainable propagation and completely endorsed our efforts!