By Louine Hope Conserva, Correspondent

Aquaculture touted as food security measure

Posted on October 05, 2015

ILOILO CITY -- Developing more aquatic farms for the cultivation of fish and water plants could provide a boost to food security while curbing illegal fishing, said officials at the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings on Food Security and Blue Economy.

Dr. Felix G. Ayson, chief of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center-Aquaculture Department based in Tigbuan, Iloilo said the region will have to increase aquaculture production to keep up with future demand.

“My projection is that for us to provide food for the population, we need to increase our aquaculture production by 30% within 25 years,” Mr. Ayson said in a news conference.

At present, he said, about 50% of the aquatic products in the market are farmed while the other half is sourced from the sea.

“It is necessary for us to produce fish in farms considering that many of our fishing grounds are already overexploited. Fishermen are going into illegal means as there are not much fish out there already. So we need to supply them by cultivating in farms,” Mr. Ayson said.

Remia A. Aparri, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Region 6 director, said aquaculture is also key to combating marine exploitation.

“Aquaculture is one way to protect our resources as it is in a controlled environment. It calls for minimal intervention, which in turn provides savings to the government,” she said.

Aside from discussions on sustainable food production, Ms. Aparri said the APEC meetings are also focusing on addressing food loss and food waste.

“Huge production is nothing when it only results in food loss. And this is what this APEC meeting is all about, minimizing food loss, especially in the post harvest,” she said.

In the Western Visayas region alone, she added, the fishery sector is experiencing 35% losses post-harvest.

Western Visayas posted the second highest fisheries production value in 2014 at P28.4 billion, including harvests from commercial and municipal fishing and aquaculture, based on data from the Philippine Statistcs Authority. The top region was Central Luzon with P30.9 billion. Ranking 3rd to 5th are Soccsksargen, Calabarzon, and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Mr. Ayson said the campaign for food security must be complemented by continuing research and development to address not just growing demand but also other issues such as the impact of climate change.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary Asis G. Perez, director of BFAR, said food security also involves improving the competitiveness of the local fisheries as well as agricultural sectors.

Mr. Perez, who chaired the APEC-Policy Partnership on Food Security meeting, said it is necessary to enhance the competitiveness of the APEC economies’ agriculture and fisheries industries, adopt fair policies that promote sustainability and growth among the many stakeholders, particularly small holders such as women, farmers and fishermen.

“Food security has come to be one of the most urgent and important challenges confronting the world, especially us, APEC economies,” Mr. Perez said.

At the culmination of the two-day Meeting in Iloilo City on Oct. 3, the APEC member economies agreed on food security policy statements for consideration during the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in November.

The policy declarations focused on four priority areas: Stock-take and Food Security Road Map Toward 2020, Sustainable Development of Agriculture and Fishery Sector, Facilitation on Investment and Infrastructure Development, and Enhancing Trade and Markets.

From Oct. 4 to 6, environment and agriculture ministers and officials from the 21 APEC member economies are to discuss the conservation of ocean and coastal resources while ensuring food security.

Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is co-hosting the meeting along with the Department of Agriculture, said the dialogue aims to draw up an action plan that would ensure sustainable food supply chains and at the same time keeping the coastal and marine ecosystems resilient.

“This meeting would be a venue for partnerships across economies and other sectors to address current and future challenges we face in these priority areas,” Mr. Paje said in a statement.

APEC, a multilateral international organization that aims to foster free trade and economic prosperity among its members, includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.