Technotrends: Eucheuma farming:
A better altenative
By: Thea Kristina Pabuayon
October 1999- Special issue , BAR Digest
The seaweed resource is one of the most important marine resources. Production of seaweed through culture is one of the most productive form of livelihood benefiting thousands of coastal inhabitants in the country today (Trono, Jr., 1997).
The country’s seaweed industry is presently the third ranking fishery industry. In 1996 alone, seaweed and seaweed products worth US$94 million were exported by the Philippines (Trono Jr., 1997). Local and international markets that include the United States, Japan, Latin America, Canada, and the neighboring Asian countries have and continually increased. However, the Philippines should put in mind that the need to further advance and exploit such valuable industry through research is still inevitable since most of our neighbors are catching up. In 1971, Eucheuma farming was instituted in the (Kappaphycus alvarezii/Eucheuma cottonii) are ‘carageenan ‘-bearing seaweed abundant in Philippine waters. Numerous food and industrial products such as binders, thickeners, and emulsifiers require ‘carageenan’ as a main ingredient.
Because of positive reports and outcomes, researches and Eucheuma culture spread to other farming systems and eventually, to the Mindanao areas where conditions are favorable for its farming.
One such research”, the study on “Eucheuma Farming in Selected Areas of Palawan”. The long coastline characteristic of Palawan made it ideal for seaweed farming. Researchers of the Inland Sea Ranching Station, a research Department of Agriculture based in Puerto Princesa City conceived and implemented the project in support to the Seaweed Development Program of the Local Government Unit of Palawan. Through this project, Palawan is envisioned to be a competent and world-class seaweed producer.
Potential areas of Palawan that can be utilized for Eucheuma farming were determined through multi-location testing. Through this, the transfer of Eucheuma to the different fishing communities of Palawan was made easy. Local Government Units, DA, and seaweed processors, provided seminars, training, technical assistance, and market links to the fisherfolk.
The study yielded several conclusions and findings that has proven Eucheuma technology beneficial to the fisherfolk of Palawan.
It was estimated that 50,000 families benefited from the technology. Palawan has also established itself as a prime seaweed producer, providing 142,000 Mt. Annually which amounts to 23% of the country’s total seaweed production.
After the utilization of seaweed farming, it was calculated that the income of fisherfolk largely increased by P31-33,000 per annum. This helped alleviate poverty and further establish seaweed farming as a beneficial and rewarding form of livelihood.
The possibility of generating high income from this technology has made it attractive as an alternative livelihood for fisherfolk. It has economic viability which means high income returns can be expected in spite of low capital input. As a result, the further degeneration and destruction of overexploited fishing grounds can now be prevented.
Seaweed farming can also be regarded as a solution to the persistent problem of un/underemployment and basically eliminates idle labor by providing opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-managed businesses. Because it will require a sizeable number of manpower, the whole family can participate and earn at the same time.
However, several problems have also been anticipated following the utilization of this technology. First, unregulated seaweed farming may affect the natural ecosystem when overcrowding occurs. Second, the proliferation of seaweed farms may also pose resource-users conflict (Abrera et al, 1998). Open fishing areas would be limited and could mean inadequate catch for fishermen. Nonetheless, these problems could be prevented if strict implementation of existing laws on regulation of seaweed farming will be followed.
The potential of eucheuma farming to improve the general status of countryside livelihood in the Philippines is clearly evident. It is therefore vital that more researches and studies be conducted to further develop and expand the utilization of this technology.