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PGMA Promotes Production of High-value Fish Species

by Ellen Hardy
30 May 2008, at 1:00am

PHILIPPINES - Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has launched a mariculture development project to promote the culture and production of high-value fish species which are in demand in neighboring countries in Asia.

The President led the unveiling of the marker of the Tawi-Tawi Modified Mariculture Development Project, an anti-poverty project that would directly benefit more than 52,000 coastal dwellers and fisherfolks in the adjacent island towns of Sibutu and Sitangkai.

Assisting the President during the capsule-laying ceremonies at the municipal grounds were Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Secretary Jesus Dureza,Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali, and Lone District Representative Nur Jaafar.

Welcoming the President were more than 1,000 residents led by Sibutu Mayor Kuyoh Pajiji, Sitangkai Mayor Tiblan Ahaja, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Malcolm Sarmiento.

Among those, who arrived with the President were Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Secretary Jesus Dureza and Armed Forces Chief Of Staff Alexander Yano.

The President also awarded a P2-million cheque for the scholarship programme of the Institute of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and distributed various fishing equipment including 100 6.5-horsepower engines, 10 units of fish finders, and 10 units of global positioning system (GPS) for the 10 fishermen's associations in the province.

The mariculture project involves the production and culture of high-value fish species such as groupers (lapu-lapu) including the backyard culture of abalone, sea urchin, and pearls.

In her speech, the President said the project is in line with her super regions concept to equally distribute the fruits of economic reforms to the countryside particularly in the less developed areas.

The President said the mariculture project would increase the income of the more than 50,000 fisherfolks here to an estimated P100 million for every fishing harvest period.

The President later conducted an aerial inspection of the fish cages in the 75-hectare mariculture project situated in the shallow inland waters of Sibutu and Sitangkai.

The government is pushing the establishment of mariculture parks (MPs) throughout the country, which now number 31, to create more jobs and livelihood opportunities particularly in areas such as Tawi-Tawi, the poorest province in the country.

A "mariculture highway" starting in Tawi-Tawi would be established as soon as mariculture parks all over the country can already produce enough volume of high-value aquaculture products such as fish, crab, shrimp, sea cucumber, abalone and seaweed.

BFAR Director Sarmiento said this highly-marketable and huge volume of cultured marine species would then attract buyers who will collect them in mariculture parks using the Strong Republic Nautical Highway en route to local and export markets.

The BFAR is envisioning a network of mariculture parks in both the western and eastern corridors of the country as trading post for cultured high-value fish and other marine species for both local and international markets.

"The mariculture highway (western seaboard) that would be established later would start from this place (Tawi-Tawi) going north. It would pass Zamboanga where we already have a mariculture park going to Palawan, Mindoro, La Union and thence to foreign markets such as Hong Kong and China," Sarmiento said.

For the eastern seaboard, Sarmiento said the mariculture highway going to Luzon would start in Samal Island in Davao and Surigao passing through Leyte and Samar, which also host mariculture parks that have already been operational over the past several years.

The province of Tawi-Tawi is an ideal site for year-round mariculture production due to its pristine waters, rich and diverse fishery resources, and conducive climate.

Rep. Jaafar said Tawi-Tawi is currently the top producer of seaweeds in the country with an annual production of 361,000 metric tons.

Jaafar said that among the teeming high-value fish species in the province are several types of groupers (lapu-lapu) including the prized Napoleon wrasse, locally called "mameng."

Although the catch and sale of mameng is currently banned under Philippine laws, middlemen sometimes buy "mameng" from local fisherfolks here at P1,000 per kilo which, Jaafar said, is then sold in urban areas at P2,000 to P2,500 a kilo and even fetches P5,000 a kilo in neighboring countries such as Hong Kong.

Only last week, Jaafar said the House of Representatives conducted a committee hearing on the regulated fishing of mameng in the country only during its breeding season in keeping with the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) that considers the Napoleon wrasse only as threatened and not an endangered one.

Ellen Hardy