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Bicol Eyes Tilapia Production for Export Market

PILI, Camarines Sur, Nov. 8 (PNA) -- Bicol is taking the challenge of producing tilapia for both the domestic and export markets.

Local fishery authorities say there is a big area for growth in the production in Bicol of both the small-sized tilapia which is a hit in the local market and the big-sized that is consistently gaining popularity abroad.

The region had vast freshwater resources that are highly suitable for large-scale production. Among these are the Bato and Buhi Lakes in Camarines Sur, Danao Lake in Polangui, Albay, Bulusan Lake in Sorsogon and several other smaller sites sporadically distributed among the six provinces of the region.

All in all, the region’s inland water resources capable of tilapia production are measured at 246,063 hectares of swamplands, 253,854 hectares of brackish water fishponds, 200,000 hectares of lakes, 31,000 hectares of rivers and 19,000 hectares of reservoir, according to data obtained from the Bureau of fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office here.

For the domestic market, stepping up production of the presently popular small-sized tilapia (scientific name: Tilapia nituka) varieties called “tilanggit” is necessary and BFAR regional director Dennis del Socorro over the week said they are encouraging local stakeholders to raise more preferably through aquaculture.

The industry for the domestic market is fast expanding as tilapia is now officially considered the Filipino poor man’s fish replacing “galunggong” (roundscad).

To step up tilapia production for the domestic market, Del Socorro said they making available more quality tilapia fingerlings for distribution to aquaculture pond operators in the region. These fingerlings are produced by the BFAR at its Regional Freshwater Fisheries Center (RFFC) in Bula, Camarines Sur.

This facility that sits on a 34-hectare property in Barangay Fabrica, Bula is responsible for the production of 30 million quality tilapia fingerlings in 2010 which were distributed to fishermen, pond operators and local government units under a dispersal program of the 2KR- National Agriculture and Fishery Council (NAFC)-assisted special project of the government.

RFFC, Del Socorro said also functions as the Center for verifying, adopting and techno-demonstration of different freshwater aquaculture technologies developed in national center.

It is equipped, among others with a SCV-Artificial Fish Egg Incubator for intensive tilapia hatchery apart from the refinement of induced spawning of African Catfish and breeding of Giant Freshwater Prawn.
We can produce millions more of fingerlings in this facility for a stepped up tilapia production in Bicol,
Del Socorro said.

The beauty of tilapia fingerling production is the way the tilapia eggs are fertilized which involved certain behavior unique to this freshwater species of fish.

Del Socorro said copulation of tilapia starts with the male breeder ramming its head on the belly of the female breeder until the orange eggs are spurted from the orifice at the bottom pectoral fin.

Then, the female breeder gathers its own eggs in its mouth, and then the male breeder flips and positions its orifice and releases its eggs near the mouth of the female breeder which takes them in into its mouth to fertilize with their own eggs earlier stored near the gills.

After eight to 10 days, the fertilized eggs are regurgitated and the process to maturity from fry to fingerling begins.

This process of life creation intended to bring food for the table goes over and over again in the RFFC where male and female breeders are selectively and periodically mated for the production of millions of fingerlings for dispersal all over the region.

Another unique trait in tilapia is that it can easily switch sexes from male to female and vice versa through hormonal manipulation, depending on the ratio of male and female breeders in the ponds.

Del Socorro said that when the male and female ratio of tilapia raised in RFFC becomes greater for the male population they manipulate them to become female breeders by giving them feeds that increase their female hormones.

On the other hand, for the export market which is keener on big-sized tilapia with enough flesh for fillet processing, Del Socorro said they are adopting the genetically improved Nile tilapia strains to innovate on existing nursery and grow-out culture systems to suit the requirements for large-sized fish and intensive production.

Recent reports from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-funded program “Innovative approaches to Nile tilapia culture” are pointing out some head start.

Under the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAANRD)-coordinated National Tilapia Research and Development Program (NTRDP), researchers are enhancing local capacity to compete in the world market.

Latest report of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association said that in the United States (US), tilapia has shown the biggest gains in popularity among seafood.

This trend is expected to continue as consumption increased from 1.5 million tons in 2003 to 2.5 million tons in 2010.

Del Socorro said Americans and Europeans have the passion – and taste – for tilapia since they consider it as “white meat,” a health food low in cholesterol and fat. Also, European chefs have a preference for its firm meat.

And because of its large demand in the world market, tilapia commands a high price as in the US.

The DOST-funded program has produced pro-biotics from fermented leaves of red creole onions and shallots, locally known as “sibuyas Tagalog” which when added to feeds of tilapia, improved the growth of tilapia over the 30-day feeding trial.

It has also established the effect of sex reversal using alpha-methyl testosterone, a steroid on improving fish growth.

The research is also looking at plant-based substances from the pine pollen as alternative growth stimulant and agent for sex inversion for tilapia.

Del Socorro said Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is the appropriate variety to produce in Bicol for the world market. It is a species of high economic value and is widely introduced outside its natural range. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD/

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