Drought does not curb expansion

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
3 September 2007, at 1:00am

PHILIPPINES - The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects the expansion of the fisheries sector, one of the biggest economic drivers last year, to remain on target for the second semester of 2007.

Even in the worst-case scenario of a prolonged dry spell until the end of the year, Government officials believe growth will continue.

Arthur Yap, Secretary of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) , said that the drought in Bicol and Northern, Southern and Central Luzon, will only affect freshwater fishponds, specifically used for growing tilapia.

BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento says that in the event of a long dry spell until December, the potential loss for the fisheries sector will be 45,743 metric tons (MT), which represents less than one per cent of the total production target for 2007.

Actual production of the aquaculture and commercial and municipal fisheries sectors totaled 1.167 million MT in the first quarter and 1.495 million MT in the second quarter. Total production for the 3rd quarter is expected to stay at 1.494 million MT and even out to 998,544 MT in the 4th quarter.

Sarmiento said actual production in the 1st semester and projected growth in the 2nd half will bring total yields in the fisheries sector back on track at nearly five million MT for 2007. He said that the potential loss of 45,743 MT of freshwater tilapia can be offset by opening up mariculture parks as production sites for cultured tilapia in non-drought areas.

"There is a need to produce more saline-tolerant tilapia fingerlings to enhance production in mariculture parks," Sarmiento noted.

However, he also pointed out that the dry spell is beneficial for the culture of milkfish and salt-tolerant tilapia, which can tolerate higher water temperature and salinity in brackishwater ponds.

Other measures
Other mitigation measures, that BFAR will put in place to compensate for the potential losses in the fisheries sector, include harvesting rainwater in non-drought areas by means of small impoundments and canal systems from bigger bodies of water.

Sarmiento said BFAR is also encouraging fishpond owners to recycle water in freshwater ponds instead of draining it when harvesting fish. The Bureau will also help fishpond owners build shallow tube wells pumping freshwater to help combat low water levels in freshwater ponds and the high salinity level in brackishwater ponds during hot weather.

Fisheries production registered the biggest gain among the farm subsectors at 6.31 per cent in 2006, accounting for 24.92 per cent of the total agriculture output, with its gross earnings of P163.4 billion representing an 11.62 per cent increase from the 2005 level.

In the first three months of 2007, the fisheries subsector netted the highest gain at 8.52 per cent , with current-price value rising 10.34 per cent from last year's first-quarter level to P43.676 billion.

To date, the Philippines ranks eighth among the Top 10 fish-producing countries in the world with current production at 4.16 million MT. This represents 2.8 per cent of the total world production of 146.27 million MT based on statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Tuna is the country's top export product. Similarly, the country is currently the world's 2nd largest producer of seaweeds, with production reaching 1.39 million MT or 11.6 per cent of the total world production of 12 million MT.