The milkfish fry in the Philippines is currently suffering from insufficient supply caused by high importation rate and low survival of hatchery-produced fry.
But milkfish, or “bangus,” farmers no longer have to worry. Researches from the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) are targeting to address these concerns.
Milkfish is one of the most important food commodities in the country. Recognized as the Philippines’ national fish, bangus has been providing communities with sources of food, livelihood and income.
The project, “Improvement of Milkfish Larval Rearing and Nursery Culture through Gut Metagenome, Transcriptome Analysis, and Gut Microbial Community Manipulations,” primarily aims to explain the microbiotic factors and their roles in the physiology of milkfish larvae and juveniles using metagenomic and transcriptome techniques, the researchers said.
Its objective is to employ this knowledge in designing improved rearing protocols to significantly boost milkfish hatchery productivity.
The project is made possible through the funding of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD).
The project highlighted that the country’s requirement for milkfish fry is close to 4 billion yearly, but hatcheries can produce only 800 million fries per year at most because of insufficient broodstock to produce the fry, the DOST-PCAARRD said.
As such, the Philippines is importing a substantial 75 percent of the country required milkfish fry from Indonesia.
UPV has been observing industry challenges in milkfish production, particularly deformities and low survival rates of hatchery-produced milkfish fry in nursery ponds, in contrast to the better survival and yield of wild-caught milkfish fry, the researchers said.
This difference is attributed to the potential lack of maintenance in genetic quality and genetic degradation of hatchery-reared milkfish fry.
Recognizing the importance of gut microbiota in fish, the project seeks to study this further to potentially aid in selecting probiotics, prebiotics, and chemical compounds to enhance gut health and overall physical functionality of fish.
Seen as significant alternatives, these can possibly reduce the reliance on antibiotics and can be a useful tool in developing rearing protocols for efficient hatchery production of milkfish larvae.
This will be facilitated through a metagenomics approach.
Metagenomics is a study of the genetic material of a species to understand the connection of microorganisms to the environment and their health.
By examining the gut metagenomic composition of milkfish fry and juveniles, along with evaluating the influence of the gut microbiome on overall larval physiology through transcriptome analysis, the project aims to uncover the mechanisms behind the physiological fitness of milkfish larvae, the UPV researchers said.
The information gathered by the project will be useful to the management of hatcheries and nurseries to boost the quality and supply of milkfish fry. Such improvements are expected to benefit farmers, leading to increased yields in milkfish production.
Image credits: DOST-PCAARRD