Protection And Conservation In The Philippines

With the new wave of ecological thinking, the Philippines are occasionally targeted by NGO’s and the media when it comes to protection of marine life. However, few people know that the Philippines are among the first countries in Asia to protect it’s fauna and the government has always set an example in this matter. As early as 1935 the Fish and Game Administrative Order No. 11 required shell gatherers and shell divers to secure a license.

What you need to know as a collector:

1986 Administrative order 157.

Protects “Kapis” shells Placuna placenta. You need a permit, shells of less than 80 mm cannot be colected etc…

Administrative order 158.

Prohibits gathering, taking, collecting and possessing for sale of mollusks belonging to the genera Triton, Charonia and Cassis.

1990 Fisheries Administrative Order 168.

Prohibits gathering of wild Tridacna derasa, T. gigas and Hippopus porcellanus. One needs a permit from the regional Director to gather Haliotis, Trochus, Voluta, Mitra, Strombus, Murex, Oliva, Conus, Cypraea, Lambis, Harpa, Tridacna, Hippopus, Pinctada, Pteria, Placuna, Amusium, Paphia, Katelsia, Atrina, Tapes, Anadara and Pharella.

2001 Fisheries Administrative Order 208.

Prohibits taking, gathering or causing to be taken 27 species of gastropods, 2 species of bivalves and 7 species of giant clams.

These are:

Bolma girgyllus

Clypeomorus aduncus

Recluzia lutea

Separatista blainvilleana

Malluvium lissum

Strombus thersites

Varicospira crispata

Tibia martini

Cypraea childreni

Cypraea beckii

Cypraea guttata

Cypraea porteri

Cypraea teramachii

Cypraea martini

Cypraea saulae

Cypraea katsuae

Cypraea leucodon

Cypraea aurantium

Cypraea valentia

Cypraea mariae

Phenacovolva dancei

Cypraeacassis rufa

Phalium coronadoi wyvillei

Phalium glabratum glabratum

Morum kurzi

Morum grande

Morum watsoni

Amusium obliteratum

Eufistulina mumiae

Barnea manilensis

Trochus niloticus

Turbo marmoratus


Studies have shown that none of these species are endangered. Recluzia lutea, Malluvium lissum, Eufistulina mumiae and Strombus thersites have not been recorded in the Philippines since the law was issued. Morum watsoni is known from one juvenile specimen in the BMNHN. All other shells are very common in their respective biotopes, but the law is the law in this particular case.

ALL SHELLS EXPORTED FROM THE PHILIPPINES need a BFAR PERMIT (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) which states the content of the parcel together with an invoice and matching names. No shells from CITES or shells forbidden by Adm. Order 208 can be included in these parcels.

This permit is also needed to bring your shells collected yourself in the Philippines outside the country.

Conchology, Inc. adheres to the above laws which makes your collecting safe and valuable. Indeed, museums will often require these papers when accepting to keep your collection safe for future generations.

Apart from the Laws the Reality is

None of the marine molluscan species in the Philippines are endangered.

In fact, worldwide, scientists suspect that only one marine molluscan species disappeared: a Chinese mangrove species. It is even not certain that it will not be found back in the future (Prof. Ph. Bouchet, pers. comm.).

Vast parts of the Philippine waters are not suitable for proper collecting because of waters without visibility: we think about a large part of the north coasts of Negros, the east coast of Bohol, the gulf in front of Tacloban Leyte. These are thousands and thousands of hectares that remain intact, very much as “a perfect sanctuary”. Most of the Pacific coast is untouched: the waves make it extremely difficult to collect. And virtually all waters below 8 m deep are untouched: too deep to work on decently. So, from the 36000 km of coast, little has been explored.

Pollution in the Philippines is extremely limited: few areas are industrialized and only in front of Manila and a couple of km in front of larger cities such as Cebu are polluted. 99% from the coasts are virgin. It is only a myth and an excuse for NGO people and scientists, all eager to get a glimpse of the sun, the beach and the palm trees, that the Philippines are polluted.

The deeper water fishing is limited to a few hectares. It is indeed incredible that virtually all deep water shells from the Philippines come from such a small area. These areas are: Balicasag Island, Balut Island and Talikud. Less than half a dozen fishermen are working on a few square meters in other localities.

Tangle nets are not destructive for the bottom, they are merely a method of occasional catch, leaving the bottom intact and extracting a few shells. The Lumun lumun produces thousands of shells but this method consists of an artificial biotope (the net) for veligers to settle and then to grow into adults. Without the lumun lumun, these molluscs will most probably never grow anywhere, the large majority being eaten by the corals.

Much of the intertidal shells are the rejects of the human food chain. Indeed, every day millions of Filipinos will gather shells at the low tide. Many of the empty shells are kept by stockers on the Islands who will sell them off to dealers in Cebu occasionally. The major part of these shells end up in the tourist trade.

By putting more and more restrictions under pressure of NGO’s and ecological organizations, the vast majority of the tropical fauna will never be collected and studied. Indeed, scientists estimate the number of marine molluscan species in the Philippines at 12000 species, some estimates go up to 15000 species. A major effort of our company to study the local fauna ended up today with more than 4600 species, and every week we find a few more species, often “forgotten” but more often “unknown” to science.

A new myth about biodiversity also harms our scientific activities and the activities of scientists worldwide: the “molecular treasure”. Indeed governments and not well informed nature lovers suspect an important economical molecule in each animal today. In reality such molecules are extremely rare, and if existing, not limited to one country in general. A good example are Conus shells of which molucules are now used in the pharmaceutical industry. But no country has any advantage of these, as most Conus have such wide distributions that they are found in dozens or more countries. Taxonomists and collectors are interested in numbers of species, where these species live, in their discovery and their beheaviors, not in their molecules. Prohibitions because of the possible “hidden treasure myth” may result in more than half of the tropical marine species remaining unknown to humanity.

“Biodiversity” on itselves is poorly understood. The vast majority of biodiversity is invisible to the average human: it concerns animals below 10 mm, even more often below 6 mm, most of them well hidden in specific biotopes. Fish and corals are not important ingredients in numbers of biodiversity as their number of species is very limited. A good coral reef will contain about 500 fish and coral species, which is nothing compared to for example the 5000 + shell species, the 1000+ crabs and shrimps that a good place in Philippine waters may contain on a few hectares only.

In the meantime we continue to work for the advancement of humanity, and I want to recite the dedication of my Volume IV of the Philippine Marine Mollusks “dedicated to the People on Earth that promote Science through the creation of Freedom and Wealth”.