'Bangus' capital tapping wild fry to fill shortage.
Three out of four 'bangus' (milkfish) raised in ponds and cages in the country were bred abroad, according to local producers.
The Philippines' requirement for bangus fry is close to four billion yearly, but hatcheries can produce only 800 million fry a year at most because of insufficient broodstock to produce the fry, said Alex Soriano, chair of the Philippine Milkfish Industry Group.
As much as 75 percent of the country's bangus fry requirement is imported from Indonesia, said the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC), a research arm of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) based in this bangus capital.
Some 10,000 bangus breeders owned by the government and private companies can produce only a limited number of fry, the NIFTDC said.
As a result of the shortage, the price of fry from Indonesia has risen from 10 centavos apiece last year to 30 centavos.
To fill the gap, the center is studying the possibility of tapping wild fry, said its chief, Dr. Westly Rosario. Bangus growers in Iloilo province are still collecting fry from the wild, he said.
But the fry shortage will not lead to the death of the country's bangus industry because milkfish remains among the favorite foods of Filipinos, NIFTDC officials said.
The government has no record of bangus fry production in the country.
A 1995 article published by the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Aqua Farm News stated that 114,795 hectares of bangus ponds needed about 1.73 billion fry.
But the fry produced from the wild at that time was only about 160.66 million, creating a deficit of about 1.57 billion fry.
The BFAR is aiming at 70,000 breeders in the country in the next five years.