MAY 13, 2007
 (MALAYA) By REINIR PADUA - The Department of Agriculture has launched two techno-demo research and pilot-grow out areas for ornamental fish in the Sucat and Cardona areas of the Laguna Lake as part of initiatives to develop the emerging industry and tap a $186-million export market.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon make an ideal site to start and develop the ornamental industry because of its vast freshwaters, favorable climate, available manpower, proximity to Metro Manila and accessibility to major ports.

Yap awarded two units each of floating fish cages to two fisherfolk cooperatives in Cardona, symbolically marking the start of ornamental fish grow-out in the Laguna Lake.

The Cardona Federation Multi-Purpose Cooperative and the Bukluran ng Kalalakihan, Ugat ng Karagatan will grow ornamental fish and other high-value species such as ulang or freshwater prawn and red tilapia in the cages.

The DA chief said the Sucat-Cardona facilities will serve as the pilot demonstration site for the culture of ornamental fish in the Laguna Lake.

Yap said the immediate goal is to establish the optimum conditions for the growth of various species of ornamental fish that will eventually serve as a guide for the commercial culture of the high-value non-food fish commodity.

Besides the launching of the techno-demo areas, the DA is also disseminating information on better techniques for culturing and handling ornamental fish to ensure higher returns on investment and sustainable production.

Yap said areas that could be tapped to grow ornamental fish are the Taal Lake in Batangas, the Seven Lakes in San Pablo in Laguna, the portion of the Laguna Lake in Rizal and the Ticub Lake in Quezon.

Yap said that in the Calabarzon area alone, the industry can create around 35,000 direct jobs.

"We can develop the ornamental fish sector here and make it a multimillion-dollar generating industry like what our other Asian neighbors have been doing, as part of our ongoing efforts to create more well-paying jobs and raise rural incomes," he said.

Yap said that with ornamental fish-keeping now a worldwide hobby, the Philippines can tap existing markets in the United Kingdom, France, Japan, the United States and Germany, as well as the emerging ones in Eastern Europe, China and India to supply ornamental fish such as guppy, molly, tetra, angelfish and discus.

According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the worldwide export of ornamental fish has now reached $186.4 million, with the total value of the retail trade generated by ornamental fish, including hardware, accessories and feeds estimated at $ 7.2 billion as reported by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The DA said the traded ornamental fish consist of 85 percent freshwater species and 15 percent marine species. Of these, 90 percent are cultured and only 10 percent are caught from the wild.

Most freshwater tropical fishes sold to hobbyists around the world come from South America and Africa while other Asian countries have recently developed multimillion-dollar industries from breeding freshwater tropical fishes and exporting these to the US, Canada and Europe.

Singapore, for example, exported ornamental fish worth $49.5 million in 2004, 16 percent more than its 2003 figure of $42.6 million.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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