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BAR develops new oyster culture technology

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) is developing a culture process for an oyster specie found in Surigao to increase local supply and tap its export potential to China and South Korea where there is demand.

BAR and the Surigao Del Sur State University (SDSSU) have been working on a culture technology for Surigao wild oysters known locally as Tikod Amo.

“The culture of these unique oyster species will not only create an alternative livelihood for oyster gatherers but will make them collaborators in a sustainable farming system that will preserve our coastal resources,” said BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar.

The support for its culture will create jobs among residents of Lianga Bay, Barobo, Surigao del Sur.

“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 wanted to buy at least 300 kilos per week,” said SDSDU researcher Gemma Asufre.

Oyster is sold locally at an attractive price of P400 per kilo, unshelled, but the country’s annual production of 15,000 to 20,000 metric tons (MT) cannot even properly supply the demand of local hotels and restaurants.

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BAR said oyster catch has declined by 40 to 60 percent between 2006 to 2008 because of the aggressive gathering of spats ( juvenile oysters) from the wild. Because of this, very small oysters are destroyed in their natural habitat. 

The spats are gathered at a length of one to three centimeters (cm).  They are then moved to fishpens near the Barobo Bay Mariculture Zone where they are fattened up to four inches length in four to five months.

Eleazar said that with the use of proper culture technology, sustainable and environment-friendly systems could be deployed.

BAR has already allotted funding for the research but SDSSU is proposing an additional financing of P1 million for a verification study for the culture technology as well as an allocation of P2 to P3 million for a hatchery. 

SDSSU recommends the use of the bottom polyculture system where oysters are grown together with seaweeds and fish species like milkfish and siganid in the mariculture areas of Barobo Bay.

The integration of oysters in a polyculture system  may be applied on 146 hectares of fishpens in the mariculture zone.  

Part of the culture technology is the use of a spat collector or cultch material to protect spat from gathering.

For the coastal water chemical study, parameters that determine wellness of the coastal waters included temperature, water transparency, salinity, total suspended solids, pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia nitrogen, nitrate, phosphorus, monthly rainfall, bottom depth and type, and water movement.

Most oyster farms in the country are found in Bacoor Bay in Bacoor and Kawit towns in Cavite.

The average size of farms is 0.5 to five hectares. 

Production is placed at around 50 MT per hectares. The farms thrive because of their  proximity to the Metro Manila market.

The species usually cultured are Crassostrea iredalei, C. cucullata, C. malabonensi and C. palmipes.

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