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PIA Press Release

DA: Fisheries growth on track despite prolonged drought

Manila (2 September) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) expects the expansion of the fisheries sector, the biggest growth driver last year, to remain on target for the second semester of 2007 even assuming a worst-case scenario of a prolonged dry spell lasting until December.

In a report to Secretary Arthur Yap, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) noted that the drought now affecting Bicol plus Northern, Southern and Central Luzon will likely have a negative impact only on freshwater fishponds specifically used for growing tilapia.

Tilapia production in freshwater ponds in the Philippines is mainly concentrated in Central Luzon, according to BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento.

Sarmiento projects that in the event of a worst-case scenario of a long dry spell till yearend, the potential loss for the fisheries sector will be 45,743 metric tons (MT) of freshwater tilapia, which represents less than 1% of the total production target for 2007.

Actual production of the aquaculture and commercial and municipal fisheries sectors totaled 1.167 million MT in the first quarter and 1.495 million MT in the second quarter.

Total production for the 3rd quarter is expected to keep its 1.494 million MT level in the 3rd quarter and even out to 998,544 MT in the 4th quarter, he said.

Sarmiento said actual production in the 1st semester and projected growth in the 2nd half will bring total yields in the fisheries sector on track at nearly 5 million MT for 2007.

He noted that the potential loss of 45,743 MT of freshwater tilapia in the event of a prolonged dry spell can be offset by opening up mariculture parks as production sites for cultured tilapia in non-drought areas.

"There is a need to produce more saline-tolerant tilapia fingerlings to enhance culture and production in mariculture parks," Sarmiento noted.

He pointed out that the dry spell is even beneficial for the culture of milkfish and salt-tolerant tilapia, which can tolerate higher water temperature and salinity in brackishwater ponds.

Other mitigation measures that BFAR will put in place to compensate for the potential losses in the fisheries sector as a result of the dry spell in Luzon include harvesting rainwater in non-drought areas by means of small impoundments and canal systems from bigger bodies of water, he said.

He said BFAR is also encouraging fishpond owners to recycle water in freshwater ponds instead of draining it when harvesting fish.

BFAR will also help fishpond owners build shallow tube wells pumping freshwater to anticipate low water levels in freshwater ponds and the high salinity level in brackishwater ponds during hot weather, he said.

To minimize losses and save on available fresh water supply, he said fish pond operations and stocking rates should be kept at manageable levels during the dry spell.

Fisheries production registered the biggest gain among the farm subsectors at 6.31% in 2006, accounting for 24.92% of the total agriculture output, with its gross earnings of P163.4 billion representing an 11.62% increase from the 2005 level.

In the first three months of 2007, the fisheries subsector netted anew the highest gain at 8.52 %, with current-price value rising 10.34 % from last year's first-quarter level to P43.676 billion.

To date, the Philippines ranks No. 8 among the Top 10 fish-producing countries in the world with current production at 4.16 million MT, which represents 2.8% of the total world production of 146.27 million MT based on statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Tuna is the country's top export product shipped in many parts of the world including the USA, Japan, China and the European Union.

Similarly, the country is currently the world's 2nd largest producer of seaweeds, with production reaching 1.39 million MT or 11.6% of the total world production of 12 million MT. (PIA) [top]

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