Razor clams at Don Hoi Lot under threat

Razor clams or Hoi Lot / Photo: nairobroo.com

Hoi Lot / Photo: nairobroo.com

Razor clams, or Hoi Lot in Thai, have been a source of food and income for local fishermen in the central province of Samut Songkhram for decades. But the razor clam population at the mouth of the Mae Klong river is now under threat. This report takes you to Don Hoi Lot, a habitat of the distinctive shellfish, to find out more.

The complex ecosystem of Don Hoi Lot, registered as an international wetland under the Ramsar Convention in 2001, was once home to a great variety of species.

Yet recent a research carried out by Chulalongkorn University in cooperation with the area’s local community reported the density of razor clams had decreased sharply from five per square metre in 2004 to just one this year.

“In the past the area had a high density razor clam population. But the number of clams is now in crisis and they are nearly extinct. Ten years ago each fisherman harvested at least 10-kilogrammes of clams a day while today around three-kilogrammes of clams is the largest amount we can catch, said a razor clam collector.

Panuwatra Kongraksa, a leading member of the local Don Hoi Lot biodiversity conservation committee, explains why razor clams are rare.

“The number of razor clams has sharply dropped because of improper clam harvesting, and other fishing which affects the clams’ way of living. Also changes in the environmental condition around the wetland including the mangrove forest, wind and tides, are factors,” said Panuwatra.

Panuwatra said the 22-member committee, officially set up a few months ago, worked together with the Bangchakreng Sub-district Organisation, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Thailand Research Fund.

The committee aimed to preserve the overall ecosystem at Don Hoi Lot. But with only 22 volunteers, the group was now seeking the participation of more villagers.

Panuwat said an initial plan to save the clam population was being drafted.

“We’ll use a quota system for razor clam collection and ask local fishermen to catch 4.5 centimetre-long clams instead of smaller sizes. As Don Hoi Lot is an open site, we are planning to restrict the number of tourists and some activities which might harm the ecosystem, said Panuwatra.

The preservation plan has raised some hope the deteriorating situation for the razor clam will be salvaged and its dwindling numbers will not see it become extinct. (TNA)