Georges Remoissenet

Sustainability in Mollusc Exploitation in French Polynesia: from Traditional Uses to Fisheries and Aquaculture

Throughout French Polynesia, molluscs have been traditionally used for food, tools, ornaments and even as money; often playing a significant role in islanders’ belief systems and symbolic values. Currently, a few species in French Polynesiaa are sustainably harvested, including Trochus (Tectus niloticus), which was successfully introduced from Vanuatu and giant clams (Tridacna spp.). While Tahitian pearl culture is by far the most advanced aquaculture industry in French Polynesia, its success story is mostly based on ecological niche environments where pearl oyster spat collection is easily achieved. Giant clam spat collection also has had some successes in some of the more remote atolls in French Polynesia. Low-cost techniques for which targeted management measures have been developed have led to the competitive production of spats compared to high-tech hatchery techniques, with additional benefits for wild stocks. However, evidence from pearl oyster and giant clam culture activities in French Polynesia also reveals their vulnerability to environmental variability, particularly with the projected impacts of climate change. This paper aims to weave together the contemporary forms of exploitation, stock enhancement and aquaculture of key molluscs in French Polynesia, and synthesise lessons learned for the sustainable development of specific mollusc aquaculture in French Polynesia, but also the wider Pacific Islands Region.

Keywords: giant clams, pearl oyster, spat collection, trochus, fisheries, aquaculture management, sustainable development.

Figure: Some Molluscan uses in French Polynesia (image composition by G. Remoissenet ©). From top left to bottom : 1- Reao island council policeman checking size of giant clam collected spats before packaging and airfreight shipment to Tahiti for ornamentals export (DRMM); 2- Traditional octopus fishing lure (tote fe’e, Marc Bouteau); 3- Nacrous made skipjack lure hook (avitiauhopu), on top of handicraft mother of pearl half shell (© Marc Bouteau); 4- Ultra rare Tridacna maxima giant clam with asymmetrical colors named « Two face Maxima clam » on international marine live ornamentals market (© Laurent Yan); 5- On foot fishing of giant clams on specific Tridacna maxima agregations locally named « mapiko » (© Antoine Gilbert).