State U tapped to promote catfish production in Caraga

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/16 August) – Growing local demand for pangasius has encouraged a newly created state university here to set up a breeding-trial and grow-out pond for the tropical warm water catfish inside its campus to stimulate production in the Caraga Region.

Works on the techno demo pond for 2,000 fingerlings will begin Thursday at the Caraga State University (CSU), formerly Northern Mindanao State Institute of Science and Technology, in Barangay Ampayon.

Brielgo Pagaran, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regional director for Caraga, said pangasius farming is being promoted in the region because of growing demand in the domestic market and as replacement for current import products coming from Vietnam.

He said the breeding-trial and grow-out pond would also benefit agriculture and fishery students of the university by providing them the opportunity to gain practical learning by actual exposure to the culture, management and operation of the pangasius pond.

The DTI, however, has no available data on the measurement of the CSU’s demo pond.

But experts recommend an area of 400 to 1,600 sq. m and a depth of 1.5 to two meters for earth ponds.

The fist pangasius techno demo pond was established months ago at Den’s Aqua Farm in Barangay Libertad in this city. It is now being used as venue for technology briefing every Friday for product quality, market and project viability.

Pagaran said buyers in the region are now actually growing and waiting for more pangasius production.

The pangasius or iridescent shark catfish (Pangasius hypopthalmus), a species common in Southeast Asia particularly in Thailand and Vietnam, grows to a maximum of 1.3 meters and weighs 44 kilograms.

The web site Eurofish lists pangasius production in Vietnam at 40,000 metric tons (MT) in 1997. It is now considered one of the top three cultured food fish in the world.

The DTI has initially released P1.3 million in financial assistance to micro-entrepreneurs engaged in pangasius production in the region. The money came from the Rural Micro Enterprise Promotion Program (RuMEPP), which is currently implemented by the DTI regional office.

According to a report by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-National Inland Fisheries Technology Center (BFAR-NIFTC), the fleshy and fast-growing fish was introduced in the Philippines as early as 1981. It said that the breeding trials started in 1985 but since the market was not ready then the fingerlings were passed on to the aquarium fish trade and promoted as “freshwater hammerhead shark.”

The DTI regional office has already recorded at least 80 pangasius growers in Carmen town in Surigao del Sur and in this city.

The techno demo pond is a joint project of the university and B-MEG of San Miguel Corporation.

The regional offices of the DTI and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) would provide technical support. (Alden Pantaleon, Jr./MindaNews)