Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TUNA FROM THE PHILIPPINES

General Santos City -- The local tuna industry should take advantage
of opportunities in aquaculture production in the face of dwindling
tuna stocks across the world's primary fishing grounds.

At the 10th National Tuna Congress held here earlier this month,
aquaculture experts encouraged more tuna industry stakeholders to
diversify into aquaculture as a way of adapting to the decline in
global tuna catches amid high fuel costs and increasing international
competition. Aquaculture production in the country has significantly
expanded over the years, with the industry now valued at $750
million,said Ramon Macaraig, president of the Chamber of Aquaculture
and Ancillary Industries in Sarangani (CHAINS).

With the stricter enforcement of tuna management conservation measures
resulting in lower catch levels worldwide, increasing domestic
aquaculture production can fill in the current supply gap in local and
foreign markets and ensure the country's food security.

"Aquaculture production in Mindanao offers opportunities for growth,
with a variety of species available," Macaraig said, adding that
diversification into aquaculture can supplement the incomes of those
who at present depend exclusively on the tuna catch.

While it is not yet economically feasible to farm yellowfin tuna and
other commercial tuna species, there are high-value marine species
with good potential in both domestic and Asia-Pacific markets,
including grouper, pompano, mangrove snapper and Asian sea bass.

China is still the main export market for high-value seafood such as
live grouper, snapper, abalone and sea cucumber. Frozen tilapia,
catfish and pompano are selling well in the U.S., while Japan is a
major market for shrimps and crustaceans.

The sustainability of aquaculture operations depends on the feeding
systems used, the acceptability of products in local and foreign
markets, and choice of location for operations, Macaraig said.

Gil Adora, assistant director of the Department of Agriculture's
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), said that the
investment potential of aquaculture has led to the development of
"mariculture parks" in the Philippines.

"These promote the expansion of fish production and help provide a
livelihood for fishermen, [and can accelerate] socio-economic growth
in underdeveloped areas," Adora said.

A typical mariculture park covers a sea area of 500 hectares or more,
and is equipped with a communal storm-resistant mooring system and
boundary markers. It includes individual "farm plots" for fish cage
operations, seaweed farming and other aquaculture activities.

Mindanao is an ideal location for mariculture activities due to its
large production areas, year-round fish production, water quality and
skilled manpower, Adora said

Adora and Macaraig both noted the efforts of USAIDs' Growth with
Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program to ensure the sustainability of
Mindanao's small-scale aquaculture producers by providing them with
aquaculture training and linking them with potential buyers and new
markets.

Over the last decade, the GEM Program has also assisted the
SOCSKSARGEN Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries, Inc., in
introducing best production practices among its members-purse seine
and handline fishing groups, canners, processors, traders and
aquaculture producers-to help strengthen the local tuna industry's
global competitiveness and ensure its sustainability. (GEM-PIA XI)

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