Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup recently recommended to the private sector, fishermen’s groups and local government units in the area the establishment of mariculture parks in the bay.
“The Agriculture department will provide the needed support and assistance, which includes the provision of post-harvest and cold storage facilities,” he stressed.
Salacup said the DA will also help link fishermen or private groups who will operate mariculture parks to markets in the country and abroad.
The fisheries bureau, an attached agency of the Agriculture department, conceived the mariculture highway scheme in the hope to make the country a major player in the multi-billion dollar live-food- fish export business.
It established the mariculture highway in the eastern seaboard starting from Surigao connecting to Samar and Leyte and further to Casiguran Sound in Aurora.
On the other hand, the highway at the western seaboard connects mariculture parks from Tawi-Tawi to Zamboanga and then Palawan.
The fisheries bureau has embarked on constructing and expanding multi-fish hatcheries in Tawi-Tawi, Palawan and Visayas.
The hatcheries would supply high-value fish like grouper (lapu-lapu), sea brass (apahap) and snapper, among others, to fish cage operators in the mariculture parks.
Salacup urged the private sector and fishermen in the area to look for appropriate areas within Sarangani Bay where mariculture parks can be put up.
He expressed confidence that mariculture parks would be “successful in the bay.”
Various companies and even individual operators have been raising high-value fish varieties along Sarangani Bay like grouper, sea brass and pompano over the last several years.
BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento, who conceptualized the mariculture highway, has urged sea cage operators to shift their bangus production to groupers and other high-value fish species.
“They command higher prices especially when sold live in China, Japan and other countries in the ASEAN region,” he said.
The fisheries bureau’s mariculture highway project aims to synchronize both the production and harvest operations of the fish cages so that the country will have more control in production that could lead to increased exports of high value live fish species that are produced in commercial quantities in the mariculture parks.
Under the scheme, transport vessels will collect the high-value cultured fish from the highways en route their respective ports of destination like Japan, Hongkong, Guandong, Shangdong and Taiwan, among others.
Sarmiento said the scheme would ensure cheaper transport cost and better quality fish to the buyers, which eventually would enable the country to be an important player in the live-food-fish export market.
Presently, at least 19 mariculture parks have been established by the fisheries bureau with the help of local government units in storm-sheltered and environmental laws-compliant coastal areas nationwide.
A Bureau of Agricultural Statistics report said the country has exported some 7,140 metric tons of lapu-lapu valued at US$14.9M or P771.6M year 2005.
The Agriculture department earlier claimed that the Philippines is a major exporter of fish products in the world ranking 8th among the top fish producers. In 2004, the country’s total export value in terms of fish products amounted to close to US$528M with tuna on top of the list. Live high value species like lapu-lapu or grouper constitutes only 3.5% of the total export volume of 196,000 metric tons (MindaNews)