Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New technologies heighten expectations from 'tilapia' industry in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 4 (PNA) –- The infusion of new technologies into Bicol’s freshwater fisheries resources is setting significant improvements in the "tilapia" industry of the region.

These improvements boost the drive of the regional office of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) based here towards a production level that in due time would realize the region’s goal of producing tilapia for both the domestic and international markets.

Dennis del Socorro, the BFAR regional director, on Tuesday said the technologies he is referring to are those recently developed by researchers at the Regional Freshwater Fisheries Center (RFFC) stationed in Buhi, Camarines Sur.

RFFC now serves as the regional hub of freshwater aquaculture technologies and also for the post-harvest technologies engaged mainly in the production of tilapia fingerlings.

It is also the center for verifying, adopting and techno-demonstration of different freshwater aquaculture technologies developed in its national counterpart.

But the RFFC, according to Del Socorro, does not limit its capability on this as any chance to develop, improve and innovate technologies, the Center will do it and an example of this is the SCV-Artificial Fish Egg Incubator for intensive tilapia hatchery, refinement of induced spawning of African Catfish and breeding of Giant Freshwater Prawn.

This technology was developed in the Center into a new method of breeding tilapia that sets a new trend in the industry with the remarkable results of trials in intensive hatchery providing fingeling recovery that is more than what was expected.

The new technology would enable Bicolano tilapia growers to speed up production of at least one million fish fry within 15 days, Del Socorro said.

These fingerlings are either distributed to fishpond and tilapia cage owners or released to several freshwater resources that are highly suitable to large-scale production like Bato and Buhi Lakes in Camarines Sur; Danao Lake in Polangui, Albay; Bulusan Lake in Sorsogon and other smaller sites across the region.

The region’s inland water resources capable of tilapia production are measured at 246,063 hectares of swamplands, 253,854 hectares of brackish water fishponds, 200,000 hectares of lakes, 31,000 hectares of rivers and 19,000 hectares of reservoir.

BFAR also has eight fish farm facilities located in the six provinces of Bicol which are committed to increase the production and develop new technology or methods of fish farming in the region.

BFAR and RFFC also have seven ongoing studies on various freshwater species of fishes for various applications in aquaculture and its initial findings are now helping in the promotion of the technology in the region.

Without these researches, diffusion of technology to farmers and pond owners would be easy because they are based on generated technical experiences.

Thus, the language in technology presentation is easily adjusted to the level of farmers, fishers and technicians to facilitate understanding during seminars and training.

Vital is the research on giant freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, and this is RFFC’s self-reliant approach that succeeded three years ago and now in a fine-tuning stage which later this year or earlier next year will be promoted to production at farmer level, Del Socorro said.

Given these resources and new technologies, Bicol could already come up with about 15 metric tons of marketable tilapia yearly, Del Socorro said.

For the domestic market, stepping up production of the presently popular small-sized tilapia (scientific name: Tilapia nituka) varieties called “tilanggit” is being encouraged among local stakeholders in aquaculture to take advantage of the fast-expanding domestic market of tilapia which is now officially considered the Filipino poor man’s fish, replacing “galunggong” (roundscad).

For the export market, on the other hand, which is keener on big-sized tilapia with enough flesh for fillet processing, Del Socorro, said they are adopting the genetically improved Nile tilapia strains to innovate on existing nursery and grow-out culture systems to suit the requirements for large-sized fish and intensive production.

Under the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAANRD)-coordinated National Tilapia Research and Development Program (NTRDP), researchers are enhancing local capacity to compete in the world market.

Latest report of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association said that in the United States, tilapia has shown the biggest gains in popularity among seafood.

This trend is expected to continue as consumption increased from 1.5 million tons in 2005 to 2.5 million tons in 2012.

Del Socorro said Americans and Europeans have the passion – and taste – for tilapia since they consider it as “white meat,” a health food low in cholesterol and fat.

Also, European chefs have a preference for its firm meat.

And because of its large demand in the world market, tilapia commands a high price as in the US, Del Socorro said, adding that this trend would improve the quality of life of the common farmers and fishers in Bicol. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/