Agriculture - - Erratic Supply From The Wild -

THE MILK­FISH ( Chanos chanos), known lo­cally as “bangus,” is the largest food fish species farmed in the Philip­pines and is hailed as the coun­try’s na­tional fish. It is a R50 bil­lion (B) in­dus­try, con­tribut­ing 17% of the to­tal lo­cal aqua­cul­ture pro­duc­tion in 2014 and con­sti­tut­ing 15% of the to­tal fish con­sump­tion by Philip­pine con­sumers. There are only three coun­tries in the world that com­mer­cially pro­duce milk­fish as a food fish: the Philip­pines, In­done­sia, and Tai­wan. Be­gin­ning in the 1950s, the Philip­pines was the world’s largest pro­ducer of milk­fish. How­ever, In­done­sia caught up with the coun­try’s pro­duc­tion in the 1980s, and now, the Philip­pines ranks sec­ond to In­done­sia in terms of milk­fish pro­duc­tion.

GROWTH IN MILK­FISH PRO­DUC­TION Early records of milk­fish farm­ing in the Philip­pines in­di­cated at least 400 years of cul­ture ex­pe­ri­ence. From 1950 to 1983, milk­fish pro­duc­tion was steadily ris­ing with an aver­age growth rate of 8.1% (Fig­ure 1). How­ever, not all is rosy in the milk­fish in­dus­try. Pro­duc­tion from 1984 to 1996 started to de­cline, with an aver­age growth rate of -3.7%, as in­di­cated by line AB in Fig. 1. This was pri­mar­ily due to the sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in the sup­ply of wild-caught fry, which tra­di­tion­ally served as a source of seed­stock for grow-out op­er­a­tors.

The sup­ply of wild milk­fish fry rapidly de­clined for sev­eral rea­sons: a) degra­da­tion of tra­di­tional fry grounds due to over­fish­ing; b) de­crease in the num­ber of wild “sa­balo” or brood­stocks; and c) pol­lu­tion of coastal waters due to in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion. Due to the di­min­ish­ing avail­abil­ity of wild-caught fry from coastal breed­ing grounds, milk­fish pro­duc­tion in the coun­try started to de­pend heav­ily on im­ported fry from Tai­wan and In­done­sia.

DEVEL­OP­MENT OF MILK­FISH HATCH­ERIES IN ASIA The milk­fish hatch­ery tech­nol­ogy was jointly de­vel­oped in the 1970s by aqua­cul­ture sci­en­tists from the Philip­pines, Tai­wan, and In­done­sia un­der the lead­er­ship of the Aqua­cul­ture De­part­ment (AQD) of the South­east Asian Fish­eries Devel­op­ment Cen­ter (SEAFDEC). How­ever, com­mer­cial­iza­tion of hatch­ery-bred fry started only in the 1990s un­der the ini­tia­tive of Tai­wan, fol­lowed by In­done­sia and the Philip­pines.

The Milk­fish GAINEX Pro­ject: Be­cause of the ur­gent need to

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