El Niño seen dampening seaweed, crab production

Posted on October 06, 2015

ILOILO CITY -- Production of seaweed and mud crabs is expected to decrease due to the higher temperatures brought about by the prevailing El Niño.

Production of seaweed and mud crabs is expected to decrease due to the higher temperatures brought about by the prevailing El Niño. -- BW File Photo
Officials of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) said both seaweed and mud crabs cannot thrive in water temperatures higher than 32 degrees centigrade.

“Normal temperature is about 30 degrees centigrade, but right now it has increased to 32. Longer exposure to higher temperature would be damaging (for seaweed),” said Maria Rovilla J. Luhan, SEAFDEC associate scientist and head of the Farming Systems and Ecology Section.

Ms. Luhan said the center is currently conducting experiments on species that can adapt to higher temperatures.

SEAFDEC is also partnering with De La Salle University to identify various levels of ideal temperature for breeding marine animals. Dr. Felix G. Ayson, chief of SEAFDEC, said the center is looking at providing more nutrients to seaweed to make them more resilient to changes in the environment.

“A lot of our seaweed farmers are reporting on the ice-ice disease in their production. It is the kind of disease that happens when sea temperature becomes really high,” Mr. Ayson said.

The Philippines produced more than 1.5 million metric tons (MT) of seaweeds in 2014 with a value of about P10.52 billion, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The top five producing regions are the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Mimaropa, Zamboanga Peninsula, Bicol, and Western Visayas.

On mud crabs, Dr. Emilia T. Quinito, program leader of the SEAFDEC mud crab program and head of the Dumangas brackish water station, said larvae cannot survive in an environment of more than 32 degrees.

“Mud crabs stop spawning and breeding during high temperatures. And in the next summer where we will experience high heat, we will have a problem on poor performance of mother crabs. We might have mortality,” Ms. Quinito said.

PSA data show mud crab produced last year in brackish water fishponds reached 16.1 million MT with a value of more than P5.1 billion. The top producing regions are Northern Mindanao, Central Luzon, Western Visayas, Bicol, and Eastern Visayas.

The El Niño has been projected by the country’s weather agency to last until the middle of 2016.

The PSA reported that the fisheries sector’s output suffered a 1.53% decline in the second quarter of the year while the first half performance decreased by 2.12%. Contributing to the decline is the impact of intense heat among milkfish, tilapia, round scad and skipjack.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) continues to monitor the presence of toxin at the Sapian Bay in Capiz province while the red tide warning remains in effect.

All types of shellfish and Acetes sp, locally known as alamang, are banned from harvest, trade and consumption due to the presence of paralytic shellfish poison that causes the phenomenon known as red tide.

The municipality of Sapian has declared a state of calamity to allow the release of funds to help the affected fisherfolk.

“Unfortunately until this time there is still no research to determine the triggering point or until when will the toxin be present. The only available means for us is to monitor whether the toxin is within or below the regulatory limit,” said Undersecretary Asis G. Perez Perez, head of BFAR.

Red tide is commonly attributed to warmer temperatures, high levels of salinity, high nutrient content, calm seas, and rain followed by sunny days during the summer months, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The SEAFDEC and BFAR officials are participating in the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings here on Food Security and Blue Economy that will conclude today. -- Louine Hope Conserva