BFAR successfully breeds ‘maliputo’ in captivity

BUTONG, Taal, Batangas — A major scientific breakthrough in aquaculture has been achieved in the National Fisheries Biological Center (NFBC), a research and extension facility here of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr. said the breakthrough involved the spawning of maliputo, a very expensive fish which once abound in Lake Taal.

A visibly elated Sarmiento announced that finally lady luck smiled at BFAR. Maliputo, known also as talakitok (Caranx ignobilis) when caught in marine waters, was finally induced to spawn at the research facility.

"This is a big one, as this is definitely a first in the country, if not in the world," he said, noting that it took BFAR more than 10 years to perfect the breeding technology.

"What is so exciting about this development is that it came almost immediately after another technological breakthrough in shrimp farming," Sarmiento said.

He said sugpo or Peneaus monodon can now be cultured in marine fishpens, making sugpo culture more economically feasible even to ordinary fishermen as proven and field-tested by BFAR technologists in Region 7.

Fine-tuning of the experiments are currently undertaken in Calape, Bohol, he said.

Ma. Theresa Mutia, who heads the team of aquaculturists responsible for the success in breeding maliputo, said the spawning proves once and for all that breeding this very expensive fish in captivity is attainable.

She said the team was able to develop a method of inducing natural spawning in the matured fish, which is very difficult to handle owing to its sensitive nature.

The lack of scales in the fish makes it very sensitive to hormonal injection and its slightest removal from the water may also cause sudden death.

As of press time, the fertilized eggs released by the induced fish had already hatched and the surviving five-day-old fry are doing fine in the BFAR nursery.

Like milkfish or bangus, maliputo is catadromous, meaning it breeds and spawns in estuarine waters (a mixture of marine and freshwater found in river mouths and mangroves) and goes upstream to seek for freshwater to grow into adulthood.

In Batangas, maliputo spawns in Balayan Bay and the fingerlings migrate to Taal Lake via the Pansipit River.

There, the fish grows to up to three kilos and is priced up to P500 per kilo. Maliputo is now fast becoming a rarity in Batangas and in other top restaurants and hotels in Manila due to decreasing catch in the lake and the scarcity of fingerlings caught in the wild.

Once the breeding protocol of maliputo is established, BFAR foresees a remarkable increase in the production of this species as fingerlings could already be made available year-round.

Currently, local pond growers rely only on fingerlings caught in the wild which are highly seasonal and limited.

The maliputo project is part of BFAR’s strategy to broaden its aquaculture base in support of President Arroyo’s 10-point agenda of increasing food production for food security, Sarmiento said.

After many attempts to breed maliputo in captivity in Botong, finally two sets of breeders were successfully spawned midnight of April 20.

The induced spawning took place 28 hours after the matured fish was injected with hormones. As seen under the microscope, the eggs started hatching 16 hours later and the developing larvae fed on their yolk in the next three days.

BFAR continues to monitor the developments of the newly hatched fry. Mutia said there are other factors that need to be addressed such as the water quality of the marine water used in spawning and egg hatching; the development of feeds for the developing larvae; the temperature and salinity requirements.

Some of the maliputo fry had been sent to the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center in Dagupan City for further studies.

is comparable in taste and texture to other white-fleshed marine fish like lapu-lapu, pompano and maya-maya.

It is usually served in plush restaurants and hotels steamed and garnished with various herbs and spices. Caught alive, it is much sought after by Japanese and Chinese restaurants here and abroad, making it another export winner for the country.

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