BFAR moves to boost oyster and mussel production

DAGUPAN CITY—A national program and study to enhance the production of oysters and mussels will be launched by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) next year in a bid to make the Philippines self-sufficient and even export these kinds of shellfishes abroad.

BFAR Director Asis Perez tapped the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Research and Development Center (NIFTDC) based in Dagupan City to spearhead this initiative using the book on oyster and mussel culture developed here in 1985 and published in 1991 by the erstwhile Seafarming Research and Development Department (SRDD) of the Philippine Human Resource and Development Center.

The SRDD is the forerunner of the present NIFTDC, a research center of the BFAR in Barangay Binloc, Dagupan City.

Dr. Westly Rosario, NIFTDC chief, said that the program, which will take two years to implement, will not only train technicians who will be deployed in various parts of the country to transfer technology on how to grow oysters and mussels in the coastal areas but will also review coastal areas earlier pinpointed as conducive for the growing of oysters and mussels.

He said that at present, the growing of oysters and mussels in the country is treated as a backyard-type industry except for a lone mussel commercial farm in Cavite but whose production was affected due to the continuing depreciation of the quality of water in that area.

Rosario said the objective is to organize cooperatives of backyard-shellfish growers so that together, they can meet the volume of products demanded by exporters.

Asked if intensified oyster and mussel culture is feasible in areas whose coastal water was affected by red tide such as in Western Pangasinan, Rosario said these areas must just have to live with it (red tide) and will refrain from harvesting shellfishes when a red tide alert is up.

This, Rosario said, was also the same recommendation given by scientists in an international forum he attended in Taiwan where he presented in a paper the problem posed by red ride during hot weather condition in some coastal areas in the Philippines.

He said a training program for technicians and farmers will also teach them how to detect through visual examination if the coastal water was already affected by red tide without them submitting the water and shellfish samples for laboratory analysis, which often takes sometime.

Rosario said there is a big demand for shellfishes, particularly mussels, abroad, especially in China where some of its people consider the green mussels as medicinal and aphrodisiac, equivalent to Viagra.

China does not grow mussels as the quality of water there is not so good and their coastal areas being busy for navigation, Rosario added.

In the export market, a kilo of dried green mussels costs P4,000, same as the price of one kilo of dried sea cucumber now being exported by the country abroad.

At the same time, Rosario traced the continuing episodes of red tide in western Pangasinan to the fish cages teeming along the Caquipotan channel between Bolinao and the island town of Anda.

Red tide, caused by algal bloom, was first felt in Bolinao and Anda towns in 2001. Seven years after, it was felt in Wawa, Bani, and after another six years in the city of Alaminos.

Luckily, red tide has not reached the coastal area in Daupan which produces oyster in its rivers.

The red tide toxin cannot be removed anymore in those areas earlier affected, but there is a way to prevent the occurrence of red tide episodes too often which is to reduce the number of fish cages in the area to ensure the flush out of an overload of nutrients coming from fish feeds being thrown to fishes in captivity to the sea.

It is the nutrients from the feeds that cause the organism to bloom during hot weather and when the water is much salty, said Rosario, adding that it is the fish farmers of Bolinao and Anda who can best solve their own problem posed by red tide by reducing their fish cages.

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