Bangus or Milkfish Cultivation Systems in the Philippines

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Bangus or Milkfish Cultivation Systems in the Philippines

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2010 AT 05:07PM

by Henrylito D. Tacio

Davao City, 6 February 2010. “The backbone of Philippine aquaculture” is how bangus farming has been regarded by most fishery experts.  Although commercial production of bangus dates back more than a century ago, it was only in recent years that significant growth of the industry was realized.

Today, the Philippines is one of the top bangus producers in the world, along with Indonesia and Taiwan.  “Until recently, the country has contributed around 55 percent share of the world bangus production,” said Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, former executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD).

The Philippines has been exporting bangus to other countries like the United States, England, Canada, and Japan.  “The main consumer market, however, is the United States, where there are large Filipino communities,” Dr. Guerrero said.

Sleek and silvery, beloved because of its mild, sweet flesh, and its melt-in the-mouth belly fat, bangus is a favorite Filipino fish.  In Metro Manila, the national fish is rated first-class. Its popularity of bangus can be gleaned in such recipes as bangus en tocho (fried bangus served with a sauce of any of the following: tahure, tokwa, or tausi), bulanglang na bangus (with eggplants, ampalaya, sitao, malunggay, onion, tomatoes, rice washing and bagoong), rellenong bangus (formerly a party dish; now available even in school cafeterias), and bangus lumpia.

Also known as milkfish, bangus (scientific name: Chanos chanos) is most closely related to carps and catfishes.  It occurs in the Indian Ocean and across the Pacific Ocean, tending to school around coasts and islands with reefs.  A warm water species, it prefers water temperatures between 20-33 degrees Centigrade.

In the Philippines, bangus can be raised anywhere.  However, the top bangus producing provinces are Bulacan, Pangasinan, Capiz, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.  The most recent report released by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the combined production of these five provinces alone accounts for more than 50 percent of the country’s total production.

Raising bangus can be done employing different production systems in freshwater and in brackishwater.  “Depending on the available resources and level of management, the culture methods can vary from the traditional or extensive system, the modular or semi-intensive to the intensive system,” according to Milkfish: A Basic Domestic Need Commodity, a primer published by PCAMRD. 

The semi-intensive system is an improvement of the traditional system where fingerlings are stocked at a higher density.  With natural and artificial feeds, bangus fingerlings are stocked at densities of 6,000 to 12,000 per hectare.  With dependence on natural food in the traditional system, low stocking densities of 1,000 to 3,000 fingerlings per hectare are applied.  In this method, the culture period is longer thus allowing only one or two croppings a year.  The modular pond system, on the other hand, allows a continuous operation and makes possible four to six croppings per year.

To make fishponds and fish cages productive throughout the year, adequate supply of bangus fingerlings is necessary. “Historically, milkfish fry abound in the country, especially during the fry season in the months of April to October,” the PCAMRD primer reports.  “During recent years, the number collected has been dwindling.”

Farmed fingerlings are preferred to wild catch.
Among the causes cited for the diminishing supply of bangus fry were destruction of natural habitats brought about by the extensive conversion of mangrove areas to fishponds, destructive fishing methods and environmental degradation, among others. 

 “With the decrease in seed supply, the cost of fry and fingerlings has increased significantly over the...
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