Sual hosts bangus producing company

July 14, 2015 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

By Yolanda Sotelo

SUAL–As three hawks imposingly hover above a cloudless sky, some 30 workers feverishly toil in a fish cage and an adjoining shack – some of them harvesting bangus (milkfish), others placing them on containers full of icy water, yet others “shooting the fish” into tubs according to size.
It is about 11 o’clock in the morning, and the workers started at around one o’clock am that day, Edward Sandiego, 42, a “master harvester,” says.
The laborers are filling tubs with 25 kilos each of bangus and covering them with crushed ice, loading the tubs into boats which would sail to a mini-port. There, other men would load the tons of bangus into the waiting trucks.
Around three in the afternoon, the trucks are set to drive to Malabon where wholesalers are waiting for the fresh produce from the sea of this western Pangasinan town.
“This is almost a daily scene here,” Alex Soriano says of the bustling activities. Soriano is the vice president for business development of the Feedmix company which maintains fish cages in Baquioen Bay.
The hawks, which live in nearby hills, dive for wild fish in the sea, sometimes for bangus. But the operators do not mind them. If only for bringing joy to the workers’ heart, “we hope their numbers would increase,” Soriano said.
In another part of the sea off Sual are several floating cages where bangus broodstock (sabalos or parent bangus) are kept. There, they share the sea space of eight hectares with broodstock of high value species like cobia (black salmon), pompano, lapu-lapu (giant grouper) and malaga (rabbit fish).
“We also culture the high value fish for both local and foreign markets,” Soriano, also the general manager of the Tierra del Norte Realty Corporation Aquaculture Division in Sual, a subsidiary of the Feedmix company.
While the bulk of the produce is sold fresh in the local markets, the company also processes the different fish at the Fisher Farms, a processing plant (another subsidiary of Feedmix) in Bulacan.
The plant can process 40 tons of fish daily, turning these into delicious sausages, bacon, sisig, relleno, smoked, marinated and butterfly cut bangus, and frozen whole fish ready for the export markets such as the United States, Canada, Spain and Middle East countries.
The plant is inspected quarterly by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for hygiene practices and traceability of the produce. These are essential components of the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point or HACCP, a food safety management system.
Representatives of the Food and Drugs Authority of the United States likewise regularly comes to check the farm in Sual and the plant in Bulacan, says Ramon Perdon, Feedmix project coordinator, said.
The fish are regularly tested for chemical hazards like hormones, growth regulators and antibiotics; heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium and copper, and physical hazards like glass, wood, metals.
Fortunately for the fish cage operators in the area, the sea is still relatively free of pollution despite the presence of 750 fish cages. “We make sure the feeds are free of the hazards,” Perdon said.
Feedmix has basically covered the entire aspects of fish production except hatchery, he said.
Aside from the cages, sabalos are kept in a 7-hectare farm in Baybay Norte village.
“We have a total of almost 10,000 sabalos,” Perdon said.
The fishpond and the cages serve as a “halfway house” for the breeders aged 3-8 years old, which were either caught as adults from the wild, caught as juveniles or young adults and reared until maturity, or were hatchery-reared.
They are waiting for their “forever home” where they can spawn and multiply, and help the Pangasinan and the country’s bangus industry thrive even better.
“They have to be in a hatchery where the environment is conducive for them to spawn and for the eggs to hatch,” Dr. Joebert Toledo, a consultant of the Feedmix Specialist Inc. which proposed to establish the Cape Bolinao Sustainable Marine Finfish Hatchery and Eco-Learning Center in Bolinao town.
But it may take a while before the broodstock finally find the “home” where they can spawn in peace.
The residents of Bolinao, specially the resort owners, are up in arms against the project, citing environmental issues such as pollution of Patar Beach which is a stretch of white beach which the town is proud and protective of.
The proposed Bolinao hatchery can accommodate only some 2,000 broodstock (1,500 sabalos and the rest would be high value species like pompano, seabass, red snapper), but the facilities may be expanded later so it can house more broodstock. The Feedmix plans to establish hatcheries in other towns.
If allowed by the local government of Bolinao, the Feedmix’s proposed facility would only be the second finfish hatchery in Pangasinan, the topmost bangus producing province in the country. Pangasinan yearly produces 100,000 tons of bangus, 70,000 of which come from Bolinao-Anda and Sual fish cages.
But the province, and the entire country for that matter, is dependent on importation of fry.
“Hatchery is the weakest segment in the fish food chain in the country,” Ilocos Regional Director Nestor Domenden of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said.
The Philippines needs 3.2 billion of bangus fry every year, and half of that, or 1.6 billion, are imported from Indonesia while the rest are sourced from Sarangani and seasonal catch from the wild.
“We may be top bangus producer but we are dependent on importation for fry. If we talk of sufficiency, we need to have control of all segments of the chain, including hatchery,” Domenden said.
Indonesia has perfected bangus fry production, with ten major hatcheries and countless number of households engaged in fry-rearing, and sells its excess produce to the Philippines.

“But what if Indonesia changes its policy and refuse to sell fry to us? What will then happen to our bangus industry? This is why there is a need to establish our own hatcheries,” he said.
The Feedmix company, which grows bangus in fish cages in Sual, needs eight million fry a month, Pedron said. Since the proposed hatchery can produce 30 million fry monthly, it can sell the excess to the other fish farms in the province.
“There are many advantages to have a source of fry near the farms. These include lower transport costs, better quality of fry as these are not stressed by travel, and lower mortality rate,” Toledo said.
The Feedmix-proposed project includes an eco-learning center intended to educate residents and tourists on hatchery operations and aquaculture. “We will conduct eco-tourism tours, educational film showings and residents and visitors will have the opportunity to see and appreciate the beauty of large mother fishies and babies swimming in tanks,” the proposal read.
The facility will be situated some 20 meters above sea level and 1.5 kilometers from the beach, and thus is safe from storm surges.
The company may mean well, but it still have to contend with environmental and other issues raised by Bolinao stakeholders, such as the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute which maintains a marine laboratory in the town.
Ronald Villanueva, deputy director of the marine laboratory, raised concerns about discharge of wastewater into the sea, saying the discharge of “70-80 cubic meter of wastewater a day can be significant to Patar’s coastal waters despite the water treatment facility.”
In a letter to Patar village head Carolina Abad, Villanueva likewise said the company may breed vannamei (Pacific white shrimp) from sources affected by diseases and which could introduce disease causing microbes to the Bolinao’s coastal waters.
Toledo however said the company, which maintains a vannamei hatchery in Labrador town, sources its vannamei broodstock only from BFAR-accredited farms in the United States.
The other issues the UPMSI raised is the lack of information regarding how seawater will be sourced and discharged (as) plan for freshwater pump house was provided, but none for seawater (and) the water treatment is specific for freshwater.
On wastewater treatment, Toledo said the company cannot afford to pollute the place as hatcheries are very sensitive to pollution and need pristine environment for the broodstrock to thrive.
“He said the waste water sytem won’t be using chemicals, and would re-use waste water after removing the solid particles by series of cartridge filters, rapid sand filter, then to fraction collector, and passing through UV system.
“We will be adopting a system by which the wastewater will be filtered by oysters and mussels, then will flow into a pond for gracilaria production, before going through a sand-gravel filter into a holding tank for recirculating to the hatchery or discharging into the sea. Solid waste collected will be turned into organic fertilizers for herbal and ornamental plants around the hatchery,” he said.
The Feedmix officials are still waiting for Bolinao’s local government to give its go signal for the hatchery, and are hopeful that after explanations of the costs and benefits of the hatchery, they would eventually get the nod.

Entry filed under: News.

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