Improving the potential of seaweeds through squid pot fishing

SQUID POT 3The oceans need rebuilding. Climate change is no longer just the only threat being faced by the fisheries sector. The constant overexploitation of aquatic resources in our local seas has posed serious consequences to biodiversity. There is a need for agriculture and fishery sector to develop sustainable practices that consider the limits of what the ecosystems can provide.

To address overfishing, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) schedules fishing bans that would prohibit the catching of fish for a short period of time. Another intervention is introducing sustainable aquaculture. BFAR, along with the local government units, continuously encourage coastal communities to integrate aquaculture by presenting it as a source of additional income to household.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States define aquaculture as “—the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of animals and plants in all types of water environments— [it] is one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein and has helped improve nutrition and food security in many parts of the world.”

In the Philippines, widespread practice of aquaculture has made the seaweed the second most exported fishery resource, with almost 40, 000 metric tons of seaweed exported in 2016.

The introduction of aquaculture practices like seaweed farming has been a key factor in lessening the cases of illegal and destructive fishing activities such as the use of dynamite and cyanide, done in coastal communities. By opting to farm seaweeds, marine life flourishes as the seaweeds become the breeding ground for marine life.

According to a study conducted by the International Center for Marine Resource Development at the University of Rhode Island, seaweed farming is a good option for fisherfolk thinking of shifting from fishing to aquaculture. Seaweed is easy to cultivate, requires low initial capital investment, and provides a rapid and high return on investment.

Despite the profitability of seaweed farming, most fishing households in the Philippines do not rely on mainly on the practice. This is mainly because seaweed profitability is largely dependent on market prices. The price of seaweeds ranges from 25-60 pesos per kilo depending on the quality and the time of the year it was harvested. The price of seaweeds begins to increase from August to December as the volume of production decreases because of stronger winds hitting coastal communities brought about by the northeast monsoon.

Seeing that seaweed farming is only a supplemental source of income in fishing households, the Bicol University Tabaco Campus proposed a research project implemented in one of the small island municipalities of Southern Luzon. The research titled, “Development and Promotion of Squid Pot-Seaweed Farming Integration: An Income Diversification Option in Small Island Community,” sought to integrate another aquaculture practice that can augment the income earned by seaweed farmers through squid pot fishing.

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A squid pot is a container device usually cylindrical in shape, designed to catch squid in coastal waters. The device is hung on a bamboo buoy and submerged halfway to the bottom of the surface where squid can be baited with a coconut branch or a fruit stalk wherein squid can lay their eggs.

Ideally, squid pot is installed in areas with dense concentrations of sea grass. For the project, squid pots are placed beneath the cultivation lines of seaweeds. Once a day, the squid pots are pulled above the surface where the squid is harvested except for its eggs which are yet to hatch underwater. Fisherfolk can harvest around 2.5-45 kilograms of squid daily sold at around 150 pesos a kilogram.

The project, which was funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research, generated the data from two coastal communities in the island of Batan, Rapu-Rapu, Albay, around 200 miles southeast of Metro Manila. Income was compared between fishing households who do seaweed farming only, squid pot fishing only, and those who integrate both practices as their source of livelihood.

According to Dr. Plutomeo M. Nieves, the project’s main proponent, by integrating squid pot fishing to seaweed farming practices, coastal communities can augment their income as well as develop resiliency when typhoons get blown over to their area, which is very common to the coastlines of the Bicol region.

Based on the data gathered, it was observed that when both seaweed farming and squid pot fishing is practiced, household income increases to at least 19 percent. Upon three months of upgrading from a single practice of aquaculture to the introduced integrated system, fishing households can earn almost 10,000 pesos. That’s 4,000 pesos more than what they can earn from just practicing seaweed farming. Bicol University is now looking into how to better improve the willingness of the coastal communities to use the technology.

Aside from its profitability, squid pot fishing utilizes passive gear that’s non-destructive to the aquatic ecosystem. The catching device not only catches squid but also houses squid eggs which can be left alone to hatch even after the device is brought to the surface.

Research staff from Bicol University discovered that the squid pot device also became catching devices for other marine life such as groupers, lobsters, siganid, snapper, and caesio species. This observation is further proof that the integrated system helps rebuild biodiversity within the aquatic ecosystem. Bicol University Tabaco Campus is currently redesigning the squid pot so that it may serve as a multi-species trap made up of indigenous materials, the design of which should be in accordance with the fishing ground and seaweed farm location.

Among the 16 regions of the Philippines, Bicol is one that is constantly hit by typhoons. While the effects of climate change may be very apparent in this region, aquaculture is paving a path towards resiliency and sustainability. ### (Ephraim John J. Gestupa)

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References:

1.	National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. Marine Aquaculture: Overview. Silver Spring, MD: National Marine Fisheries Service, from www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/aquaculture

2.	Nieves, P.M. Bicol University Tabaco Campus. (2017). Terminal Report for Development and Promotion of Squid pot-Seaweed Farming Integration: An Income Diversification Option in Small Island Community. Quezon City. Bureau of Agricultural Research.

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