The importance of aquaculture

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As an archipelago, the Philippines is considered to have one of the highest per capita fish consumption in the world.

Fish has always been an integral part of the traditional diet for Filipinos, as cited in a study by Dr. Rolando Platon, former chief of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center/Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD).

In the country, the fisheries sector is classified into capture fisheries and aquaculture, where capture fisheries is subdivided into municipal, commercial, and inland fisheries.

However, the global declining trend of capture fisheries calls for intensified promotion of aquaculture activities and tap potential areas for fish production.

According to current SEAFDEC/AQD Chief Dan Baliao, aquaculture production is increasing and in fact, started to surpass capture fisheries in 2014.

“Fish farming has become a lucrative business,” he said.

The relatively static capture fishery means a future increase in world fish supply will be heavily dependent on aquaculture.

In a report by Napoleon Salvador J. Lamarca posted in SEAFDEC’s website, Philippine aquaculture has strong potential for further expansion and development in view of the availability of vast resources.

In fact, aquaculture has a long history in the country, starting with the traditional, low-density culture of milkfish in ponds, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Likewise, aquaculture has evolved into more sophisticated technology-based systems for the culture of various species of fish, shrimps, mollusks and seaweeds.

At present, the fisheries sector has continuously seen the significance of aquaculture.

According to Eva Aldon, Media Consultant at SEAFDEC/AQD, aquaculture has overtaken fish production with the drastic decline of capture fisheries.

“We need aquaculture to fill the demand for fish and that makes aquaculture a lucrative business,” she said.

In addition, there is a need to fill the gap in fish production as the estimated requirement for fry (fish fry) in the Philippines is about 3.5 billion annually, while local production is only at 2.5 billion a year.

Aldon said that through the years, SEAFDEC/AQD has intensified the development of technologies in terms of aquaculture through culture of fish, milkfish, and prawn, among others. However, prawn production is presently experiencing a slump.

“That is the main thrust now of the present SEAFDEC/AQD chief Mr. Dan Baliao- to revive the production of prawn,” she said.

Dubbed as “Oplan Balik Sugpo,” this program is a partnership between SEAFDEC/AQD and BFAR.

The program is anchored on early detection of diseases among prawn stocks that is aimed to revive a multimillion-dollar industry.

Meanwhile, Aldon said that SEAFDEC/AQD has contributed in poverty alleviation through the development of aquaculture for livelihood programs.

“These initiatives include culture of tilapia in small freshwater reservoir, seaweed farming, abalone, among others,” she said.

She said that SEAFDEC/AQD is ready to assist fish farmers who would like to venture into aquaculture especially for livelihood.

“They can always visit SEAFDEC and ask our experts on which aquaculture venture they would like to do in their areas,” she added.

SEAFDEC is an international organization dedicated to sustainable fisheries development in Southeast Asia.

Its AQD, established in 1973 and based in Iloilo, is mandated to promote aquaculture research and development. (JBG/LTP/PIA-Iloilo)

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