Fingerlings shortage worry Mindanao fish farmers

The shortage of fingerlings, which comes as a result of erratic temperatures brought about by El Niño, has started to worry fisherfolk in Mindanao.

The Alcantara Group’s Finfish Hatcheries, Inc., which exports as well as supplies more than 50% of the country’s total requirements for bangus (milkfish) fry, has been experiencing lower production with their brood stock laying fewer eggs.

Rene Bocaya, Finfish national sales manager, said their 12,000 brood stock at the 50-hectare hatchery in Sarangani normally delivers 1.5 million bangus fry per month. In January this year, however, it was down to only 29 million, of which 13 million went to Mindanao, 10 million to the Visayas and six million to Luzon. The situation is stressing the hatchery’s business model because the bangus fry business supports other operations.

“One product that sustains us is our bread and butter, the bangus fry, so if we can produce this it can help subsidize the high value species,” he said, adding that they are hoping that they volume will improve this month with adjustments in production.

Bocaya said there is still a “big gap between demand and supply of high-value species” though he gave no details.

In Panabo City, Davao del Norte, the Regional Fisheries Training Center (RFTC) Employees Cooperative is now operating only five out of its 18 fish enclosures due to the limited fingerling supply.

The cooperative has a 46-hectare fishpond in Tagum City solely for fingerling production.

Alberto C. Lanojan, RFTC manager, said the organization is also putting on hold plans to expand the Bangus Sugba Kilaw (BSK) Restaurant, which is a good revenue earner for the cooperative.

The restaurant, which also sells bottled and processed bangus, needs up to 3.7 metric tons of bangus per month.

“We are eyeing the expansion of the BSK Restaurant in Tagum, but we are also considering if we can meet the additional demand given the situation now,” Lanojan said.  BSK Restaurant sources all of its bangus supply from RFTC’s fish cages located at the Panabo Mariculture Park.

Andrew M. Ventura, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Regional National Mariculture Center (NMC), said the NMC too has been facing lower production.

“There is a very limited supply of bangus and high-value species fry and fingerling and garungan (juveniles that weigh 30 to 50 grams),”  Ventura said.

More than 1,500 hectares of brackish water ponds in the Davao Region have been developed to support the mariculture parks and zones with an estimated fry requirement of about 240 million.

Ventura said only about 50% or 1,380 marine fish cage livelihood projects in the region have been stocked with bangus garungan during the first two months of the year.

The five mariculture parks and eight mariculture zones in the region contribute about 60% to local food security and the fish cages cover 47% of the total employment in the mariculture industry with 1,210 fisherfolk as caretakers, based on BFAR data.

Ventura said the government aims to address the situation through the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) Assessment, which was launched in February this year.

“For this year the CNFIDP targets an increase in the production of milkfish (4%), tilapia (6%), shrimp (10%), seaweed (25%), shellfish (10%) and mud crab (5.4%),” he said.

The BFAR-NMC met last month with private bangus and high-value species operators and producers to discuss the fry shortage.


Ventura said they are still aiming to improve overall supply beginning this year through coordinated investments in propagation facilities, institutionalizing good aquaculture practices for key commodities, optimizing the operation of mariculture parks, and ensuring climate and disaster resilience of the aquaculture sector, among others.

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