Milkfish: The King of Fish Part 2

Milkfish:  The King of Fish

by Henrylito D. Tacio  

Fry supply

Historically, milkfish fry abound in the country. In recent years, however, the number collected has been dwindling due to the destruction of natural habitats brought about by the extensive conversion of mangrove areas to fishponds, destructive fishing methods and environmental degradations, among others. Consequently, with the decrease in seed supply, the cost6 of fry and fingerlings has increased significantly over the years.

Normally, milkfish fry appears in different places and various seasonal peaks. Areas like Southern Leyte, Western Samar, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Antique, and Iloilo have two peak seasons: March to July and October to November. Provinces like Cotabato and Zamboanga del Sur have fry available year-round.

“Livelihood Options for Coastal Communities,” published by the Laguna-based International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, says peak gathering days occur during high tides after two or three days following a new moon or a full moon. The gonadosomatic index (GSI) or peak-spawning season of milkfish starts in March to June and drops in August to September. During the breeding season, the rising GSI value coincides with rising seawater temperature. Spawning regularly occurs among five- to – seven yea old sabalo in the wild. Fertility is about 300,00 to one million eggs per kilogram weight of sabalo.

Several milkfish fry collection methods are practiced in the Philippines. This includes fry barriers of fences, seine nets and “bulldozer” nets.

The collected bangus fry are placed in well-ventilated containers, preferably wooden vats or big earthen jars filled with clean brackishwater. The containers must be kept in cool areas. Overexposure to sunlight should be avoided. The fry should also be brought to the concessionaires’ buying stations without delay.

Raising milkfish can be done using different production systems in freshwater and in brackishwater. Depending on the available resources and level of management, the culture methods can vary from the traditional or extensive systems, the modified extensive, to semi-intensive and intensive.

Milkfish can also be reared with other species. In freshwater ponds, milkfish can be cultured with mullet, tilapia, and carp with yields averaging 7,500 kilograms per hectare. In brackishwater ponds, shrimps, mudcrab, seabass, and seaweed are the most common species combined with milkfish.

According to the PCAMRD, the rates of stocking of the different species depend on their biological requirements, farmers’ preferences, and the market demand for the cultured products.

Is there money in raising milkfish? A study on the cost and returns of milkfish production was conducted by the agriculture department in the provinces of Bulacan, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental in 2001. The result shows that Bulacan incurred the highest average production cost at P32, 202 per hectare while in netted P41, 922. Average production costs per hectare were lower in Negros Occidental at P20, 390 and in Iloilo at P14, 047. The net returns were calculated at P15, 271 and P10, 746, respectively. Certainly, then, there is money in bangus production.

source: MARID agribusiness, January 2006 

Milkfish: The King of Fish part 1

Milkfish:  The King of Fish

By Henrylito D. Tacio

Milkfish, more popularly known among Filipinos as bangus, is considered a national icon as it is part of the country’s national heritage. Found in the entire Indo-Pacific area with water temperature above 20 degrees, milkfish appears in folk tales as “king of fish”.

Because of the Filipinos special preference for milkfish, it is one of the most-often cultured fish in the country.

“Milkfish has always been the most important species cultured in the Philippines in terms of area and production,” reports fishery expert Simeona Aypa.


The top milkfish producing provinces are Bulacan, Pangasinan, Capiz, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental. A report by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the combined production of these five provinces alone accounts for almost 50 percent of the country’s total bangus production.

For a very long time, the Philippine aquaculture industry was virtually synonymous with milkfish culture. The introduction of marine cages has greatly expanded the range of culture systems under which milkfish is now being produced: brackishwater ponds, fish pens in freshwater lakes, fish pens in shallow bays, lake based cages whether fixed or floating and sea-based cages. Perhaps no other aquaculture species has a wider range of environment and culture systems under which it is being produced.

“Commercial production of milkfish in the Philippines dates back more than a century ago although significant growth of the industry was realized only in the last three decades,” reports the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD). “Several economic activities stem from milkfish farming. These include fry collection, nursery operation, processing, marketing and other related services such as ice making and fish transport.’

A recent study show that total milkfish supply has been increasing. In 1998, the reported milkfish supply was at 165,458 metric tons. It increased to 232,342 metric tons by 2002. Of the total supply, 99.75 percent utilized as food and less than one percent was exported.

Unlike most fish, milkfish adapts to marine, brackishwater, and freshwater environment. From 1998 to 2002, milkfish production in the country grew at an average annual rate of 9.44 percent.

“Annual average production during the five-year period was 202,144 metric tons,” noted Crisanto Castillo, author of the BAS report. “OF this total volume, 179,735 were produced from brackishwater, 11,903 metric tons were harvested from freshwater, and 10,506 metric tons from marine water.”

In 2002, the average yield of milkfish per hectare of fishpond is 0.82 metric ton. Previously, it was only 0.75 metric ton per hectare of fishpond.

“Milkfish farming in fish pens and fish cages from marine environment had higher yields at 30.72 metric tons per hectare,” said Castillo in his report. “This was way above the average production in brackishwater fishpond at 0.74 metric tons per hectare, and freshwater fishponds at 2.53 metric tons per hectare.”

In 2002, milkfish farming in brackishwater environment had the biggest production but had the lowest productivity. In brackishwater fish pens and fish cages, average yields per hectare were high at 59.54 metric tons and 129.78 metric tons respectively.

“The high yields from brackishwater pens and cages were the result of bigger milkfish produced in smaller areas,” Castillo noted.

Milkfish commands a high price in the domestic market. From 1998 to 2001, average producers’ and retail prices of milkfish exhibited an upward trend: from 52.98 percent to 57.67 percent at farm gate and 79.58 percent to 82.50percent at retail. But in 2002, however, prices dropped by 6.14 percent at farm gate and 4.34 percent at retail.

Some studies have shown that price of milkfish is relatively high during the months of December to May and low in June to November. Monthly prices vary by eight percent below and above the prices of the average month.


There is also a market for milkfish outside the country. Between 1998 and 2002, milkfish exports have grown. The volume of milkfish exports averaged 359.87 metric tons with an annual growth of 46.06 percent. In 2002, exports reached 589.27 metric tons valued at US 1.8 million dollars. About 45.81 percent of the total quantity exported was in frozen form and 30.79 percent was whole or in pieces.

The Philippines exports milkfish in different forms such as smoked, dried, marinated, frozen and canned products. These are exported to Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, Switzerland, Qatar, Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, and Lebanon. In 2002, 14,863 kilograms of fresh/chilled milkfish were exported to Guam alone. Also in 2002, the US was the biggest buyer of frozen milkfish (89,169 kilograms). Canada bought 53,687 kilograms of smoked fish from the country in the same year.

Raising Tilapia in Your Backyard-Part 2

Raising Tilapia in Your Backyard

The Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center Foundation gives these timely and relevant tips on growing tilapia.

By: Henrylito D. Tacio


Stocking the pondBefore stocking the pond with tilapia, be sure to drain it thoroughly and remove the weeds and unwanted fish that may be present. Allow your pond to dry up until it cracks before refilling with fresh, clean water. Fertilize the pond one week before stocking.Stock the pond either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the water temperature is low in order to avoid weakening of the fish. Allow the water in the pond to mix gradually with the water in the fish container before putting the fish into the pond.Care and maintenance

  •          Feed daily during morning and afternoon at one portion of the pond. Supplement feeds with fine rice bran, bread crumbs, earthworms, termites and others at an initial rate of 5% of the total body weight of the fish.
  •          Maintain the natural fish food by adding more fertilizer. Place chicken droppings in sacks and suspend in the water at every corner of the pond. Put 2.5 kg of chicken manure per bag.
  •          Maintain a water level depth of 1-1.5 meters. Gradually remove excess fingerlings after the third month of stocking. Retain six fingerlings per square meter. (As another source of income, you can sell those excess fingerlings to other farmers in the area.)
  •          Plant “kangkong” and “gabi” at one portion to provide shade for the fish during hot weather and to serve as growing media for natural fish food. Water lily also provides shade. However, do not totally cover the pond with plants as this will interfere with the natural food production process.
  •          Prevent seepages and leakages by patching them with mud. Clear the pond dikes of weeds.
  •          Check the gates occasionally to prevent entry of other fish species and avoid loss of stock. If your home lot is easily flooded, place stones around the top of dikes to prevent the escape of fish if the water overflows.
  •          Find ways to keep the mudfish (“haluan”) out of your tilapia pond. The mudfish is a ferocious predator of tilapia fingerlings and even larger fish.
  •          Plant more trees within the sources of water to maintain the flow. Protect the riverbeds from toxic waste water and pesticides and avoid dumping of garbage.
  •          Plant trees and grasses near the dike to avoid erosion.

HarvestingYou can harvest tilapia by using dip net or a lift net. Lower the net down to the bottom of the pond and spread a small amount of feed on the water just above the net. Lift the net as fast as possible to prevent the escape of the tilapia. After harvesting, stock the pond again.Integrated farmingResearch at the MBRLC shows that you can make your fishpond more productive and profitable by raising a pig at the site of the pond. Pig wastes go directly to the pond and help to fertilize the tiny plants that serve as the tilapia’s main food. Tests have proven that tilapia cultured in this kind of pond can be eaten without any harmful effect. Many farmers in Mindanao have already adopted this technology in their own fishponds.Uses of tilapiaTilapia is a good quality food and has a firm and delicious flesh. Unlike milkfish (“bangus”), it has few fine bones.Tilapia is suitable also for processing into dried, salted-dried, smoked or pickled products. It is a good insect and worm predator and is known to help clean many injurious insects from ponds. To certain extent, tilapia can help in keeping down the number of mosquito larvae, thus preventing them from developing into troublesome and harmful mosquitoes. source:Marid agribusiness, July 2007 

Raising Tilapia in Your Backyard-Part 1

Raising Tilapia in Your Backyard

The Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center Foundation gives these timely and relevant tips on growing tilapia.

By: Henrylito D. Tacio

Tilapia is now widely distributed around the world.

It has become the mainstay of small-scale aquaculture projects of poor fish farmers in the developing world. According to Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, the executive director of the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD), tilapia is now cultured in more than 70 countries.

Fishery experts have dubbed tilapia as “aquatic chicken” because it possesses many positive attributes that suit the fish for a varied range of aquaculture systems. For one, tilapia tolerates a wide range of aquaculture systems. For one, tilapia tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions and is highly resistant to disease and parasitic infections.

Other good traits of tilapia include excellent growth rates on a low-protein diet, ready breeding in captivity and ease of handling; and, more importantly, wide acceptance as food fish.

Next to milkfish (more popularly known as “bangus”), tilapias are among the widely cultured species in the Philippines. The culture of tilapia in freshwater ponds and cages has been a commercial success.

Currently, there are an estimated 15,000 hectares of freshwater ponds and 500 hectares of cages in lakes in lakes and reservoirs producing over 50,000 metric tons of tilapia.

Tilapia was first introduced into the country in the 1950’s. Today, there are four species raised in the country: Oreochromis niloticus, O. mossambicus, O. aureus, and Tilapia zillii.

Business Opportunities

The Philippines now ranks fourth among the top ten large tilapia producers in the world – after China, Egypt and Thailand. Other top producing countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are Indonesia, Uganda Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.

Tilapia production grew by 5 percent during the last 14 years, noted the industry strategic plan for tilapia. This served as a major determinant in the gross supply of tilapia in the country. Tilapia surplus stood around 2,000 to 5,000 metric tons during the same period. At 2020, the surplus is expected to reach around 10,000 metric tons.

Tilapia products – fresh and frozen fillets, whole and gutted fish-have become commodities in the international seafood trade. However, the Philippines cannot supply the international market with frozen whole fish since our price is much higher than those coming from Thailand and Taiwan.

Here are some tips from the Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation Inc.:

Site selection

Select a site where water is accessible throughout the year. It should be well exposed to sunlight, which hastens the growth and multiplication of small aquatic plants called algae (“lumot”), which serve as food for the tilapia. More important, it should not be flooded during rainy season.

Pond preparation

The size of the pond should be determined by the number of fish you want to raise. A good guide is 2-3 mature fish per square meter of water surface. The depth of the pond should be one meter with water not less than three-fourths meter deep. Manage the water so that it will not flow continuously through the pond.

To ensure that no fish will escape, fine-meshed bamboo or fence should screen ponds that have waterways connecting them to canals or outside water. Both the inside and outside end of each waterway should be screened. Use big bamboos for inlets and outlets for small ponds.

Pond fertilization

Since the pond is newly constructed, you have to apply fertilizer. Do this one week before the stocking. Apply chicken manure on the pond bottom with water depth of about 6 centimeters at the rate of one kilo for every 10 square meters. Fertilize the pond once a month to ensure good production of algae. You can either use commercial fertilizer or organic matter like manure, compost, ipil-ipil leaves, etc. If you do not have organic matter, apply every month one-half kilo of urea and one-half kilo of 15-15-15 for every 100 square meters of water surface.

Securing fish fingerlings

Obtain your first supply of young tilapia from any reliable fishpond owner. One source of tilapia fingerlings is the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) Foundation Inc. in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur. If fingerlings are unavailable, you need about 20-30 pairs of good breeders to star reproducing in your tilapia pond of 10×20 feet. If fingerlings are available, you will need to plan on about 5 to 6fingerlings per square meter of water surface area. The most common breeds of tilapia available are: Nilotica, Mozambique, and GIF (genetically modified).

Source: Marid Agribusiness, July 2007