By Danny O. Calleja
SORSOGON CITY (25-Feb-2013) – Sorsogon Bay is one of the various areas in the country being eyed in commercial-scale culture of oyster to boost the about 20,000 metric tons (MT) Philippine yearly production which has prospective export markets in China and South Korea.
Oyster farms in the country as of 1987 totaled 707 hectares and production in 1982 was 19,017 MT.
One of these farms is located in Sorsogon Bay but its production is plagued by poor sanitary quality and siltation in coastal areas.
Serafin Lacdang, fisheries division chief of the Provincial Agricultural Office (PAO), said his office intends to do considerable work on deputation of bivalve, the class of marine mollusks where oyster belongs, to address this situation.
There is a simple purification unit which has been successfully tested in oyster farms in the Visayas that the PAO wants to apply but its installation should be carefully studied as it may not be economically feasible due to the prevailing low price of oysters, Lacdang said.
Aside from the Sorsogon Bay farm that is designed for commercial production, oysters in the country are found in the coastal waters of Bataan, along the coast of Lingayen Gulf, Tayabas, Cavite, Batangas Bay, Banate Bay in Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Western Samar, Northern Leyte, Palawan, Capiz and Pangasinan.
Natural oyster beds bearing species such as the slipper-shaped oyster Crassostrea iredalei, the subtrigonal oyster C. malabonensis and the curly or palm-rooted oysters C. palmipes and Saccostrea cucullata are also all around Sorsogon Bay.
The Sorsogon Bay farm covering about five hectares, each capable of around 50 tons annual production, however, pays specific attention to the culture of particular species such as the C. iredalei, which is usually about nine-centimeter long when marketed, and the moderately sized C. malabonensis, which is usually five-centimeter long, Lacdang said.
Perhaps, he said, the national government, through the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), could extend help in terms of technology and financial support to improve the performance of this farm.
Although the present supply of oysters hardly meets local demand, Lacdang said Sorsogon farmers want to contribute to the export of this product by way of producing oysters that would meet the quality required by the international market.
A statement of BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar reaching here over the weekend said the Surigao Del Sur State University (SDSSU) and the BAR have been working on the culture technology of Tikod Amo (Spondylus sp.) oyster species after finding this possible with the present natural growth process in the wilds.
Eleazar said the support for its culture will generate livelihood among residents around Lianga Bay, Barobo, Surigao del Sur with its extensive demand even for export.
Koreans and Chinese who come to the Philippines to buy sea cucumber for export are also willing to export Tikod Amo if there’s a supply.
One interested supplier wants to buy at least 300 kilos per week at P400 per kilo of unshelled meat, the BAR chief said in the same statement.
The culture technology being developed by the SDSSU and BAR will enable sustainable production as the practice of gatherers of spat (baby oysters) from the wilds destroy very small oysters.
Because of the dire practice, oyster catch was observed to have declined by 40 to 60 percent between 2006 to 2008.
With the culture technology, environment-friendly systems can be employed.
“The culture of these unique oyster species will not only create an alternative livelihood for oyster gatherers but will also make them collaborators in a sustainable farming system that will preserve our coastal resources,” Eleazar said.
BAR funded the project on the “Culture Technology Generation for Tikod Amo.”
The SDSSU is also proposing for BAR’s financing a P1 million verification study of the newly generated Tikod Amo culture technology in a polyculture system and P3-million project for hatchery development for the same species.
It recommended that culture system is the bottom polyculture where oysters are grown together with seaweeds and fishes like milkfish and siganid in the mariculture areas of Barobo Bay.
This is seen to expand employment both among mariculture fishermen and oyster gatherers.
Tikod Amo is an oyster under the genus spondylus.
The SDSSU researchers are further trying to determine its species identification.
This may be important in the culture of this special species that has uniquely delicious taste reportedly owing to its adductor muscle.
“What is more interesting is that this species seems to be unknown in the international species nomenclature database. We found no information that describes its biological features, so we assumed Tikod Amo is a new species,” Eleazar said.
Tikod Amo is even aesthetically attractive with the five colors of its internal parts.
The SDSSU is now determining the difference between Tikod Amo and a very related oyster species, Spondylys squamosos, to which it has a five-percent difference in DNA, Eleazar added. (PNA)