Big Money for Fisherfolk in Mariculture
Three times weekly, Panabo City comes alive as early as 2 a.m. when container loads of fresh bangus are whisked into the loading area, promptly sorted out according to size, iced, and then loaded onto vans for delivery to the market.
By 8 a.m. the total haul would have reached five to six tons, and 30,000 fingerlings would have also been unloaded and seeded into fish cages offshore to be grown to market size again in four months for the next harvest time.
This bustling activity is now a regular scene on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at the shoreline of the 1,075-hectare Panabo Mariculture Park in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
It was five years ago when Director Malcolm I. Sarmiento, Jr. of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) first thought of putting up mariculture parks to be operated much like the industrial estates under the Export Processing Zone Authority.
Basic facilities that included mooring systems were thus set up by the Department of Agriculture (DA) through BFAR in an area initially designated by marine technologists.
Today, along with the local government unit and other stakeholders, a management council and a development plan ensure the health of the environment and the financial sustainability of the mariculture ventures.
Nationwide, there are now 36 mariculture parks – 10 in Luzon, 15 in the Visayas and 11 in Mindanao, with those newly launched in Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte and Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte as the latest additions.
In the Panabo Mariculture Park, bangus sells at an average farm gate price of P86 per kilo. After four months of operation, a 10x10m x 5m cage stocked with 15,000 fingerlings easily yields an average of 6,000 kilos. At a production cost of P70 to P75 per kilo, a fish farmer can earn 90,000 per cage or a total of P180,000 for two cropping periods a year.
This is a far departure from the usual two to three kilos of fish caught on ordinary days by a marginal fisherman, said Sarmiento. This is what BFAR would like the fisherman to be – an empowered fish farmer who has the ability to raise fish under conditions that would be to his advantage.
To further boost profit, the fish farmer can grow danggit or samaral in tandem with bangus in a system called aqua-polyculture. After one cropping, with 1,680 fingerlings, the danggit can grow to 100 kilos and fetch an additional income of P8,800.
Operating one unit of a 10m xl0m x5m fish cage, however, requires an investment of P470,000 for a bamboo cage or P576,00 for a GI pipe cage. Nonetheless, the amount covers the cost of the cage, fingerlings, feeds and labor, among others.
Thus, BFAR encourages the fishermen to organize themselves into cooperatives and enroll in its “Rent-a-Cage Program” to enable them to start raising fish and pay the cage rent, including the cost of production, after selling their produce. Within two years or an average of four harvests, the group shall have been able to fully pay the cage and acquire additional cages for their business venture.
The park can accommodate a total of 600 fish cages, 100 of which are intended for marginalized groups or organizations, and 500 units for private investors.
To ensure the sustainability of this venture, BFAR; through its Regional Fisheries Training Center in Panabo provides training and technical assistance to investors and fisherfolk who are interested to venture into bangus production, Sarmiento said.