In the early history of mankind, people were food gatherers and hunters. Then, they learned how to-grow plants and raise animals. They became farmers. Farming activities enabled them to have a more stable food supply. They did not only farm on land but they also learned to farm the seas. Farming on land is known as agriculture. Farming of lakes and seas is called aquaculture.
For many years, Filipinos have been involved in aquaculture farming. Among the aquatic-organisms being raised in water farms are bangus (milkfish), sugpo (tiger shrimps) and seaweeds particularly Eucheuma.
Raising bangus has traditionally been done in fishponds. The water in these fishponds is brackish. It means the water is salty, but the amount of salt is less than that in seawater. Brackish water results when seawater mixes with freshwater from rivers and lakes.
In nature, the adult female bangus or sabalo lays eggs in the open seas. Then the male deposits sperms in the water, which fertilize the eggs. After hatching, the young fry find their way into the shallow waters. These very young bangus (bangus fry) are caught by nets near the shore.
Bangus fry are then transferred to the fishponds, where they grow to be fingerlings and later into market-size bangus. Here, they are given the proper conditions for growth. For example, bangus feeds on plankton. Certain methods are used to make planktons abundant in the fishpond. Also, since other fish such as tilapia eat bangus fry, these are kept out of the pond, which then becomes exclusive to bangus. In addition, insect pests which destroy the fingerlings are eliminated by using some insecticide. After a few months under these favorable conditions in the fishpond, the bangus are of the right size for the market.
There was a time when the sabalo could not lay eggs in captivity. It has been reported that a procedure was developed at the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) based in Iloilo, to make the breeding of milkfish in artificial ponds possible. However, most of the bangus fry raised in fishponds are still gathered from the sea.
In sugpo culture, as in the raising of bangus, the fry of tiger shrimps are made to grow in brackish water in fishponds. The fry are fed well. They do not only feed on plankton but also on ready-made or formulated feeds and other food, such as chopped tiny shrimps and shells.
Sugpo culture is more expensive than raising bangus. However, the profits are bigger, because it is in demand not only locally but as an export product.
Like bangus, a technique for artificial breeding of sugpo has been developed.
Eucheuma is an alga (Figure 12.24). It grows naturally in reef flats but the biggest source is the wide shallow areas of the Sulu archipelago
The seaweed is a source of carrageenin. Carrageenin is an organic substance used in making emulsions and suspensions. For example, it is a component in ice creams, mayonnaise, toothpaste and creams. It acts as a stabilizing substance that prevents certain ingredients, such as the oils, from separating from the mixture. Carrageenin is in high demand in industry. It is a dollar earner for our country.
With the decrease in supply due to overharvesting, people started to set up Eucheuma farms. Thousands of families in Sulu and Tawi-tawi are small Eucheuma farmers. Also a boost to the farmers is the building of a factory in Mandaue and Cebu for preparing carrageenin. In spite of these developments, many problems face the farmers, including an unstable price for their produce. Some have even abandoned their farms and have gone back to fishing. Help from the government is much needed to save the industry.