The Marshall Islands Mariculture Facilities (MIMF), stationed in Rairok just behind Long Island Elementary School, is home to a colorful array of electric green, purple, blue, and turquoise-patterned clams that range in size from three feet to smaller than an average adult’s finger.
Robert Reimers Enterprises first owned the facilities starting in the mid-1990s until an American company — Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums (ORA) — acquired it in late 2003. Now, the clam farm uses seawater from the ocean side that is continuously pumped through its tanks to operate an “open flow grow-out system,” which filters sand and algae once a day.
For environmental sustainability reasons, the clams are not taken from the wild. Instead, three different species of Tridacna clams are grown on the farm: Tridacna maxima, T. derasa, and T. squamosa. These species are ideal for aquarium conditions and are in high demand in off-island markets.
While it takes two-to-three years for the slow-growing species to reach a mature age desired for selling, the fast-growing species requires only one or one-and-a-half years. Some of the oldest that have been grown, and are still growing, span 30 years. Clams take excruciatingly long to grow, but while the giant “adult” clams put out the best show of colors they are used primarily for breeding; it’s the smaller ones that are desired by pet stores and home owners to brighten up their aquatic tanks.
The current manager of the MIMF Jacob Appelbaum, along with three local staff who are only a little older than the 30-year-old clams in their care, also grow hard and soft corals which are cultured in both open ocean cages and the land-based system.
They keep the clams inside 24 large tanks, a few partially shaded — some within a trench dug in the middle of the facility — but nevertheless under sunlight, which supplies the nutrients they need to for growth, health, and color.
The farm has had many visits from college and high school students who have expressed interest in training and working at MIMF. They find it mind-boggling that the clams and corals raised here are shipped all over the world.
Read more about this in the December 1, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.