Bamboo Raft For Growing Oysters
There is a new and better way of culturing oysters that is being espoused by the city agriculturist of Dagupan City.
She is Emma Molina who is a fish¬eries expert. Right now she is promoting the floating bamboo raft system of culturing oysters at the Pantal and other rivers in Dagupan City.
In the old system, bamboo poles are staked in the river bed to which the spats or baby oysters attach themselves. This system worked for the fishers of old. But the disadvantage is that if the bamboo poles become too crowded they impede the free flow of water.
In the floating raft system the bamboo poles are crafted into a raft and floated by means of sealed plastic drums. At the bottom of the raft, strips of rubber from truck tire interiors are attached. The rubber strips are one inch wide and about two meters long. The spats attach themselves to these strips. After eight months, the oysters could be harvestable.
The beauty about oyster culture is that commercial feeds are not needed. The oysters depend on the natural food in the river water.
Oyster culture using the floating raft system is just being revived in the rivers of Dagupan. Emma Molina recounts that oyster culture was an important source of livelihood in Dagupan in the early 1980s. However, the oyster industry in Dagupan was overtaken by the fishcages where bangus was cultured.
In 1987, oyster production was totally abandoned in the Dagupan rivers in favor of bangus culture in cages. It was understandable because bangus production in cages was much more profitable than oyster production. The operation was so lucrative that there were big financiers doing the funding of the fishcage operations.
According to city administrator Vladimir Mata, there were at least 16 big fishcage financiers. It cost them P500,000 to finance one cage for one cycle of production which is three months. The capital needed was quite big but so was the reward. According to Mata, the net profit ranged from 25 to 36 percent in a period of three months.
Thus if the cost is P500,000 and the net margin is 25 percent, that is equiv¬alent to P120,000 profit from a 300 square meter cage in three months. If the margin is 36 percent, that would be P180,000 profit per cage.
And so, with the big profits, every one with money joined the fray. It came to a point when the rivers were overcrowded, polluted and silted. Mata said that the rivers that used to be six meters deep had become only three meters deep.
That of course alarmed the city authorities. The city council passed a resolution to ban the fish cages from the rivers of Dagupan. Naturally there was a fierce opposition from the fishcage financiers and operators. That was their gold mine.
But there was the political will of the city authorities. After six to one year of bargaining, no less than 1,600 fish cages were demolished in 2010. The rivers were subsequently dredged and the dredged materials were used as landfill in the low-lying coastal barangays. The city spent P6 million for dredging but it was worth it.
Today the rivers are much cleaner and the native fishes have started coming back to the joy of the hook and line fishermen. Today some 2,000 small hook and line fishers are fishing every day from 10 o’clock in the morn¬ing to three in the afternoon. Now they average a catch of 6 to 9 kilos worth almost one thousand pesos, according to Mata.
In the days of the fishcages, Mata remembers, there were only about one thousand hook and line fishers who caught only an average of three kilos in five hours of fishing.
This is one proof that when the authorities have the political will, they can protect the environment.