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Philippines Reap Rewards from Seed of Conservation

PHILIPPINES - High-value aquaculture species such as tiger prawns and mud crabs posted double-digit growth rates in the second quarter as a result of the continued intervention measures of the Arroyo government that helped expand fishpond areas, increased stocking and spawned proper management practices.

In a report to Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said the agency’s technical assistance to growers of high-value species contributed to the high production gains in the aquaculture sector.

BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr. said aquaculture production of about 516,000 metric tons (MT) was 2.63% higher than the output in the same period last year.

Total tiger prawn production for the second quarter of 2008 was higher by 39.73% from last year’s level, he noted.

The production increase was attributed to the 2,309 hectares of brackishwater fishponds that shifted to tiger prawn from bangus culture in Bulacan, particularly, in the towns of Hagonoy and Paombong.

From 136.93 MT in the second quarter of 2007, production went up to 3,163.99 MT in the same period in 2008. also a result of good prices and high demand in the market, Sarmiento said.

Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Pampanga, likewise, showed production increases of 34.76 %, 6.45 % and 5.93 %, respectively, due to increased stocking, proper maintenance, quality post larvae and the high survival rate of tiger prawns, he said.

As for mud crabs, production in the second quarter of 2008 was higher by 16.29% compared with the 2007 level. The increase in production was due to the availability of quality crablets, proper management practices, the technical assistance from BFAR, and increased stocking due to good prices and high demand in the market, Sarmiento said.

Total catfish production in the second quarter of 2008 was 44.3% more than the production in the same quarter of last year. Production gains were recorded, said the BFR chief, in Bulacan, Davao City, Laguna, Iloilo and Camarines Sur.

Bulacan posted a production increase of 132.94% because of the availability of catfish, resulting to more stocking and good command prices for the species.

Several tilapia operators also shifted to catfish culture, according to Sarmiento. Carp production for the second quarter of 2008 was 1.56% higher than last year’s output. All types of farms came up with production increases that contributed to the total volume of 2,994.46 MT, Sarmiento reported.

In Laguna, the increase in harvests of more than 100% from pens and cages was a result of the high survival rate of bighead carps in Sta. Rosa, Siniloan, Panguil and Biñan.

The fingerlings dispersal program implemented by BFAR in tandem with local government units in small farm reservoirs and the early onset of rains also increased carp production in the Cagayan provinces, he said.

He said the production increments in other carp-producing provinces were due to increased demand for the fish because of high prices of meat and other marine fish products.

Earlier, DA officials said they were optimistic that the country could double the national shrimp output in five years to 100,000 MT and thus regain its status as one of the world’s top exporters of this marine product, with the large-scale production of Peneaus vannamei or Pacific white shrimp.

The importation and culture of Pacific white shrimp is strictly monitored by BFAR in tandem with the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center-Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC-AQD), which is headed by Dr. Joebert Toledo, to guarantee that only good-quality and pathogen-free broodstocks are produced in the country.

Because Vannamei shrimps mature faster, require less production inputs and have greater resistance to diseases, The DA has projected that the country could achieve an unprecedented shrimp production volume in excess of 100,000 MT in five years.

This volume is more than double the current production of some 30,000 MT of white shrimps and 24,000 MT of prawns or sugpo annually.

About 60% of the country’s shrimp production goes to domestic markets while the remaining volume is exported to Japan, Korea, USA, Canada and Guam, among others.

Only one-and-a-half years after the government allowed the importation of Vannamei broodstocks, the BFAR has already accredited seven maturation, breeding and larval rearing hatcheries in strategic locations in the country and certified a total of 38 growout farms, or around 497 hectares production area.

Among our fishery products, shrimps and prawns make up the second highest foreign exchange earner, bringing in an average of $100 million a year.