March 3, 2024

Although challenging, tilapia production within the terrains of the Cordillera is being projected not only as a stable income source but also as a way of having food right within one’s backyard in the time of the new normal.
An existing technology in rearing tilapia, modified to suit the region’s conditions, has made possible increased fish production, which is enabling the government to supply the different highland provinces with tilapia fingerlings that communities may raise within their backyard.
The La Trinidad Regional Fish Farm (LTRFF) in Barangay Balili, La Trinidad, Benguet managed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-CAR has recently developed the modified intensive tilapia hatchery (MITH), which has resulted in faster and increased production; and better quality of tilapia.
The technology, according to BFAR-CAR Director Lilibeth L. Signey, has been acquired after they attended a two-week course with a Filipino farmer now based in Coachella, Southern California in 2017.
It was modified by the BFAR-CAR team led by Aquaculturist II Marx Perfecto C. Garcia, who explained they needed to make it work with the Cordillera’s lower temperature and climate.
The purpose of the tilapia hatchery was to increase production, but BFAR-CAR’s MITH applies automation and heaters to achieve the optimum range of temperature under which the harvested fry from tilapia breeders may hatch and become fingerlings.
There are around 5,000 tilapia breeders at the LTRFF.
Managing the system, which applies among others hydroponics or managed water circulation, is not a walk in the park.
Tilapia fry or eggs are harvested from the breeders, then placed in artificial incubation jars. They will stay in long rectangular stainless steel pools for one week until fully hatched. Each pool contains 500 milligrams of eggs, the standard number to avoid overpopulation.
The fingerlings will then be transferred to the fry rearing pond at the greenhouse pond for tilapia. They will stay there for three days and ready for dispersal. This is done to make the fingerlings more resistant during travel, when they are taken by those who will grow them in other areas.
Garcia said they have to closely monitor the temperature within the facility and maintain it at 27 to 28.5 degrees Celsius.
“Lower or higher than that range, it would be stressful for the fingerlings. It will be prone to mortality, their resistance compromised. So throughout the day we maintain that temperature range,” Garcia said.
He said one of the best practices the facility showcases is the use of aquaculture.
“Ang tubig dito hindi nasasayang kasi umiikot lang. After dumaan sa fry trough, bababa sa filtration system then automatically magpa-pump up ng water to the heater tank, then pabalik, umiikot lang,” Garcia said.
He said with the new intervention, they were able to produce 300,000 to 350,000 fingerlings a month in the past two months, compared to 200,000 to 250,000 before using the MITH.
He added the greenhouse pond at the LTRFF is probably the only one in the country.
He said the Cordillera is still dependent on other provinces for tilapia fingerlings but they aim to reduce the volume imported.
Cordillera’s fish sufficiency is only around 15 to 20 percent, which they plan to at least double through interventions.
“Dito sa Cordillera bitin pa rin tayo ng fingerlings. Ilang millions of fingerlings ang binibili natin sa Isabela, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga. So itong hatchery natin dito malaki ang natutulong lalo sa requirement ng mga fisherfolk lalo na sa tilapia,” he said.
In aquaculture sector alone, there are more than 10,000 fisherfolk, mostly in Ifugao where the biggest production is located.
Signey said the project, among others, is useful now more than ever with the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Department of Agriculture under which BFAR operates, has refocused its food sufficiency programs.
She said communities now need to be able to produce food at home since mobility is limited until a cure for the disease is found, and it is important people are supported through inputs and technological knowhow.
Fingerlings are provided for free upon request to provincial fishery offices in the region, which in turn give for free to beneficiaries.
Private fish practitioners may also avail of fingerlings. Five hundred fingerlings are given free to those requesting for the first time and may avail more at minimal cost after registering in the Fisheries Registration Program.
Garcia said those who request for fingerlings undergo training and given free inputs – feeds, fingerlings, and technical advisories.
He said they also want to show the public that tilapia and other aquatic species may grow in the Cordillera.
Garcia said they are hoping all provinces will have its own fish hatcheries. To complete the transition of fry to fingerlings without affecting its growth performance and survival, BFAR-CAR aims to soon have a nursery farm.
“We are pushing for sufficiency not only in tilapia produce but also in other species so we are working to address our limitations,” Garcia said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana