Last October 2014, I walked into a field of coconut trees and attended a ground breaking ceremony for Romblon’s soon-to-be Marine Research and Breeding Center. All around were sounds of frantic chopping and sawing. While this ground breaking marked the end of those coconut trees, now almost one year later stands a fish hatchery that is a source of employment in a very rural community and will maintain a provincial breeding stock of milkfish.
The milkfish is the national fish of the Philippines. Juveniles can be found in brackish estuaries and mangrove coastlines, but adults live and breed in the saltwater of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Milkfish aquaculture in the Philippines dates back roughly 800 years!
If you live in Romblon and are interested in starting milkfish aquaculture, you are in luck! Once your home fish pond or cage is approved to raise fish, you can purchase the fingerlings (baby fish) produced from the milkfish in the photo above. If you raise these babies to maturity, not only will you have food for your family (careful, the milkfish is quite bony!) but you can sell the fish at the local market for a profit.
Already this hatchery is a success! It has created numerous new jobs, it is a site for fisheries students to complete on-the-job training and skills development, its milkfish production is useful throughout the province, and it will be a site of ongoing research for improving fisheries technology. I visit the hatchery in my free time to help with operations or even to clean the tanks. Once, when we finished work early, I hopped in an empty fish tank with a staff member and taught a swim lesson!
I recently toured an aquaponics operation here in Odiongan, Romblon. The system, designed to sell produce commercially, is an inspiration to my office for potential future developments.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, growing marine animals such as fish or clams in captivity, and hydroponics, growing plants in water. The advantage is that the system inputs (fish food) yields two crops (ex. tilapia and lettuce) and uses about 1/10th of the water needed to water a standard gardening set up.
The tilapia are grown and harvested for food, while their waste serves as nutrients for the rest of the system.
Is aquaculture organic? Yes! No fertilizers, hormones or additives are needed. Although Tony, the Canadian operator of this farm, said that monitoring water quality, such as pH, is crucial. If his system is low on calcium, he likes to add an eggshell to be filtered through his rock beds.
This system reduces energy needs and can operate in places without soil such as parking lots or schools. We hope to start a future aquaponics system at our provincial fish ponds so that the waste from our tilapia will also be recycled for fish growth.
SJ Byce as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines. And Intern at CIEE Bonaire '17