Seminar-workshop disseminates sandfish-based integrated multi trophic aquaculture systems

Dr. Marie Antonette Juinio-Meñez of the Marine Environment and Resources Foundation, Inc. (MERF), in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Diliman-Marine Science Institute (UPMSI), conducted a feedback seminar and workshop at the Bolinao Marine Laboratory, UP Marine Science Institute on 28-29 September 2023.

Aimed to provide a venue for exchange of information on the current practices and initiatives in sandfish culture and fishery management, the activity was joined by 40 participants from various institutions, organizations, and agencies within Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Central Luzon regions. Conducted as part of a research for development project that aim to diversify sustainable sandfish aquaculture production systems and to contribute to the resiliency of small-scale fishers, the activity likewise explored and promoted the feasibility of scaling the sandfish-based integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) in northwestern Luzon.

With this, project agency partners from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), local government units, and institutions located in northwestern Luzon presented the status and updates on sandfish projects and fishery management initiatives in their respective localities. Also, fisherfolk partner cooperators from different project sites in Bolinao, Pangasinan briefly shared their personal experiences on the sandfish-based integrated multi-trophic aquaculture.

The MERF project team presented updates and current practices on culture of sandfish, diversification of sandfish culture, and different protocols developed which should be considered in IMTA systems.

During the workshop, Dr. Meñez explained that techniques and information on the integrated multi-trophic aquaculture systems, but more so local knowledge, are critical in identifying management and adaptive protocols for the production technology. 

“The success from the pilot trials of IMTA of sandfish with other commercially important species like sea urchin, finfish, and mussels, or with other compatible and locally available species in the Northwestern Luzon region, provided economic benefits to stakeholders in the form of additional income through increased productivity and additional livelihood,” said Meñez. 

She stressed that by effectively communicating science-based information, local partners are envisioned to take part in a participatory approach of planning, implementation, monitoring, and assessment. Further, dissemination of research results, including these small-scale environmentally friendly culture production systems, and encouraging the adoption of the developed protocol will contribute directly in socio-economic transformations towards a more resilient coastal communities and ecosystems.

The seminar-workshop was also attended by DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) staff led by Julia Lapitan, assistant head of the Project Monitoring, Evaluation and Linkaging Division, Marnelie Subong, technical staff of Program Development Division and documentation team from the Knowledge Management and Information Systems Division.

In her closing message, Subong emphasized the need to fill the research gap on the depleting number of marketable-sized sandfish in the wild. “Ngayon babantayan natin ang magiging resulta ng mga model systems around Santiago, Pangasinan. Maari po nating tingnan kung kaya na bang umpisahan dito sa northwestern Luzon. Hinihikayat po namin ang mga kasamahan natin dito from NFRDI at BFAR na ipagpatuloy ang naumpisahan ng mga marine scientists ng UP Marine Science Institute. Pagtulungan po natin ito, kasi malaki po ang role natin sa sustainability ng sandfish industry.

Subong also reiterated that BAR supports projects with proven and adoptable technology which could easily be adopted or transferred to its intended users, the farmers and fisherfolk. “Kami po sa [BAR] mayroong matinding pagnanais na maging tuloy-tuloy ang paggawa ng mga techniques or strategy para ma-translate ang resulta ng research sa mga polisiya or teknolohiya na makaka-benefit sa mga mangingisda at magsasaka, at makaambag sa dagdag kita at pagbantay sa yamang dagat”. (### Maria Elena M. Garces)