Bolinao’s fish cage culture and the ‘bangus’ boom | Inquirer Business
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Bolinao’s fish cage culture and the ‘bangus’ boom

By: - Correspondent / @yzsoteloINQ
/ 02:00 AM March 16, 2016

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—The country has sufficient supply of milkfish (bangus), and some of the credit should go to an enterprising fish farmer who introduced the fish cage culture in Bolinao, a coastal town in western Pangasinan.

Maximo Abesamis, 78, has been in the fish farming business almost all his life. He was initially into culturing bangus in tracks of ponds he inherited from his parents.

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He was the first to establish fish pens in Pugaro River here in 1994 but he had stopped after a year when some businessmen followed suit and polluted the waters.

“Then I read about cage culture of salmon in Norway. I learned that salmon and bangus have similar characteristics. I decided to go to Norway to study the industry and try it in our country,” he said.

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Abesamis brought 10 cages (each spanning 200 square meters) to the waters off Boborwen Island in 1996.

“Fishermen laughed at me. Some of them ridiculed me for stocking up to 50,000 fingerlings in one cage that measured only 200 square meters. The stocking density for a pond was only about 10,000 fingerlings a hectare. A fish pen, on the other hand, can carry up to 100,000 fingerlings per 400 square meters,” he said.

“It was all trial and error. I even had to experiment with the feeding system… I studied how they feed salmon in Norway. I knew that culturing bangus in cages would work but I did not know how much to feed them and how many fingerlings I would stock in a cage,” he recounted.

When the time came for his first harvest, many fish farmers and businessmen came to observe. “Puwede pala (so it is possible),” they said.

Abesamis was soon swamped with queries about bangus cage farming. He also shared his experience with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.

Fish cage farming turned into a sunrise industry in Bolinao. In 1997, Abesamis bought another 10 cages, with each cage measuring 287 square meters.

But in 1998, Super Typhoon “Gading” sliced through Bolinao. “My stocks in the 10 cages were wiped out,” Abesamis said. But the cages withstood Gading’s winds of 140 kilometers per hour, he said.

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The industry recovered. Many investors in fish cages made themselves rich.

But all caution was thrown to the wind. Soon, the area was congested with cages which obstructed sea navigation.

In 2002, a fish kill compelled the government to enforce management protocols for stocking density and for spacing these cages.

Culturing bangus in cages is a process that continues to this day.

The system that Abesamis developed has been replicated in other parts of the country.

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TAGS: Bangus, Bolinao, boom, cage, Culture, Fish, Milkfish, Pangasinan
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