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A booming clam breeding industry

FRENCH POLYNESIA
Friday, May 17, 2024, 06:50 (GMT + 9)

In the south of the island of Tahiti, Moerani Lehartel raises giant clams for the aquarium trade. Last year, he launched a new species ( Tridacna squamosa ) exploited for its meat.

It was in 2010 that the adventure began, at the suggestion of the government of French Polynesia which called for a collection of Tridacna maxima larvae in Reao (Tuamotu). Moerani Lehartel, founder of Tahiti Marine Aquaculture, went further. “We now control the reproduction of this species ,” he rejoices. He is the only breeder nationwide and is one of about 20 hatchers in the world. In Papara, in the south of the island of Tahiti, it has 24 pools of 2,000 liters of sea water and lagoon rearing rafts. It employs 25 people.

The hatchery opened three years ago. The broodstock are collected, following current regulations for this protected species, in Tubuai (Austral Islands). Then the stages follow one another: hatching, development to the larval stage, pre-growing (spat, up to 2.5 centimeters) and growth at sea (clam, up to 12 centimeters). Production is intended for the American (50%), European (30%) and Asian (20%) aquarium markets.

Moerani Lehartel.Photo: courtesy La Depeche de Tahiti

For the past year, Tahiti Marine Aquaculture has also been breeding Tridacna squamosa to reach the meat market. “We hope to cover Polynesian demand and export to Asia". Pilot tests are being carried out and a whole sector could see the light of day.

4 cm giant clams, ready to be transferred to cages in the lagoon.Photo: courtesy La Depeche de Tahiti

In 2025, Tahiti Marine Aquaculture will integrate the biomarine zone of Faratea, on the peninsula, and will be able to multiply its production tenfold. “Clams have potential, they live in symbiosis with algae, which allows the production of animal proteins from minerals and solar energy. And this without any inputs or polluting discharges. In addition, the sequestration of carbon in its shell contributes to the fight against climate change,” insists Moerani Lehartel.

Author: Delphine BARRAIS/ Produit de la Mer (translated from original in French)

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