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close this bookLivelihood Options for Coastal Communities (IIRR, 1995, 77 p.)
close this folderLand-based activities
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Salted-fish drying

Fisheries cover the whole operation of catching fish, processing or preservation and marketing of the product.

Due to the acute shortage of ice and lack of storage facilities in their villages, most fishermen have resorted to fish processing as an alternative for saving their catch from rapid spoilage. Fish can only last 12-15 hours in fresh condition after catching.

Preservation of fish is often an opportunity to use underutilized family labor and generation of employment in coastal areas. Salted dried fish processing is mostly done by women, children and unemployed youth who cannot go fishing.

Fish is easily spoiled due to microorganism activity (bacteria, etc.), chemical deterioration (breakdown of fats or enzymatic activity) and infestation (blowfly insect or vermins). There is no simple solution to spoilage, but there are preservation methods which can be applied to inhibit perishability. Deterioration starts when the fish die; and to slow down perishability, salting and drying fish is one process. In many cases, preservation improves product/market preference, increase quality and storage life and commands better prices.

Principles of salting and drying

Salt solution removes water from the fish flesh to a point where microbial and enzymatic activities are inhibited. Salty concentration of 6-10 percent in the fish tissue will prevent bacterial activity (UNIFEM, Food Technology Source Book, No. 4 1988). Microorganisms. known as hallophilic bacteria, are, however, saltloving; but, drying will stop these bacteria. Salt will penetrate into the fish flesh until the concentration is equal to the outside where no movement of water or salt occurs. The brine solution can be used further by boiling to remove surface foam and adding more salt as required. Boiling of the unused brine solution by evaporation will result to crystal salt recovery; but processors do not practice this.

Soaking vats or tubs made of wood

Drying is the transfer of moisture from the product to the air. The two stages of drying is the removal of (a) surface moisture and (b) the internal moisture from the fish. Drying is effected by (a) air movement and (b) heating by the sun. Sun-drying salted fish is the common practice in the Philippines.

Methods of salted fish drying

The use of crystal white coarse salt is preferred. Preparation of the brine solution is generally practiced in the Philippines, using three mixture ratios to suit various fish species and consumers' preference. They are:

1. 50 kg (1 sack) salt is dissolved in 100 liters water (strong solution)—Ratio 1:2
2. 50 kg salt is dissolved in 150 liters water to form a medium brine solution—Ratio 1:3.
3. 50 kg salt is dissolved in 200 liters water to form a light brine solution—Ratio 1:4.

Mix the solution thoroughly by continuously stirring with a wooden paddle until all the salt is dissolved. Use wooden tubs or vats as brine containers. This can be a discarded wooden boat or dugout or fabricated lumber.

Clean the fish thoroughly from slime and dirt by washing them in clean water. Drain the fish in about 20 minutes and soak them in the brine solution for two to five hours. Soaking time depends on the species of fish. Small fish, like sardines and mackerels, normally requires two to three hours. Large fish are soaked for three to five hours. Usually, large species need splitting and removal of gills and guts. The size, oil content and flesh texture determine immersion time. Quality of salted dried fish depends on the state of freshness prior to processing.

Mixing ratio of brine solution: 1 sack salt/50 kg mixed with 5 kerosene cans (20 liters) water.

After soaking, dry them in mats (bamboo or burl), nets, trays, bamboo slats or covered ground. Drying can last from three to six days depending on light intensity, wind movement, fish species and thickness of flesh. An indication of well-dried fish is the reduction of weight from, 65-75 percent or moisture content of dried fish from 14-18 percent.

Many commercial fish-drying areas are located in isolated small islands or far from population centers which are free from house fly (bangaw or langaw). The blowfly usually lay their eggs during drying and, later, the eggs hatch into maggots or worms that damage the processed fish. Thorough drying will minimize rotting. Do not use insecticides as commonly practiced in many places, because of their harmful effects to health.

The dried fish are usually packed in wooden crates with wax paper lining or corrugated boxes with newspaper lining for shipments. For local marketing, wooden, bamboo or rattan baskets are used.

Tray method of drying salted fish.

Economics of production—salted-dried fish (Roundscad)

Value (in pesos)

Total value (in pesos)

Annual Return

1,300 kg dried fish/month at P27.50/kg × 10 months


Annual Production Cost

30,000 kg fish × P10/kg


7,200 kg salt × P1.30/kg


13,000 pcs plastic bag × P0.08/pc


Water at 4/day × 200 days


(2) laborers at 25/day × 200 days






Fixed Investment

(1) unit brining tank


(1) unit plastic sealer


Knives and other utensils


(20) pc drying trays at P3/pc



Net return

Annual return


Less: Annual production cost



Return on Investment

Net return


Fixed investment



Source: Technology of Improved Drying Method of Roundscad, PCAARD, Vol. Vl, no


Salted-smoked-fish processing

While salted-fish drying is commonly practiced in remote, rich fishing grounds, salted-smoked fish (tinapa) is mostly done in urban centers. Salted-fish drying is done mainly to prevent deterioration, but smoking fish is done to improve taste and flavor. The quality of smoked fish is highly dependent on the degree of freshness of the fish. More and more people are shifting to smokedfish preference and it is fast becoming a delicacy food. Smoked fish may even be more profitable than fresh fish because of demand and preference.

Principle of smoking

The preservative effect of the smoking process is due to the drying and the deposition in the flesh of natural wood smoke chemicals. Smoke from burning wood contains compounds that inhibit bacteria, while heat from fire causes drying. The longer it is smoked, the longer the fish will keep. Avoid resinous types, like pine that imparts unpleasant flavor and taste. Also, do not use poisonous types of fuelwood like Euphorbia. Smoking techniques do not preserve the fish but are merely cosmetic to produce smoky flavor (UNIFEM Food Technology Source Book, No. 4, 1988).

Materials for smoking fish

Processing method

The materials needed are: Baklad (bamboo strips) for drying, dalarayan (tray) for smoking, bamboo baskets, vats or tubs, brine solution, oil drum smoker, smoking trays and fuelwood or smoking materials.

The popular fish species suited for salted smoked fish are: sardines, mackerels and milkfish.

Fish are cleaned by thoroughly washing them with clean water (sea or fresh). Large fish are gutted. Fish are soaked in light brine solution of 2 kg salt to 20 liters of water. Soaking time depends on the size of the fish, ranging from two to four hours. Salted fish are placed in baskets of wood or bamboo strips. They are suspended in aluminum kettles or boilers until the fish is slightly cooked (two to four minutes boiling). The fish are dried in baskets or trays and left to cool overnight.

Arrange the salted cooked fish in smoking fish trays horizontally and place them inside the smoking furnace (oil drum). The furnace is heated below by smouldering with charcoal, sawdust, wooden chips or semi-dried leaves. Smoking time varies depending on the size and taste desired. Common practice is until the fish is thoroughly dried. The position of the trays is alternated frequently to provide an even curing and smoking.

Cool the smoked fish and pack them in woven rattan or bamboo baskets. Storage time can last from four to eight days at ambient temperatures.

Cylindrical ovens, made by joining two opened oil drums, are used by artisanal processors. A stoke hole is cut at the base of the oven in which a fire is made. A perforated metal sheet can be inserted inside the drum just above the fire to act as a smoke spreader. Trays are suspended towards the top of the drum to hold the fish.

The simple version of an Altona oven consists of a brick or cement fire box located below a smoking chamber made of metal. The fish are placed on trays which slide into the smoking chamber. Many other versions of this kiln have been constructed, using less expensive materials, such as mud or fired bricks instead of metal.

Oil-drum smoker

Altona-type oven

Economics of production—smoked fish (milkfish)

Value (in pesos)

Total value (in pesos)

Annual Revenue

Sale of 2,500 kg/month × 18.50/kg × 10 months


Annual Production Cost

30,000 kg of fresh bangus × P12/kg


200 sacks of salt at P50/sack


Water at P4/day × 200 days


Firewood at P20/day × 200 days


400 sacks sawdust × P30/sack


250 kw/mo of electricity × P1.16/kw × 10 months


2 laborers × P30/day × 200 days







Fixed Investment

(1) unit brining tank


(2) units cooking kettles


(20) pcs bamboo trays


(20) pcs bamboo baskets


(2) units concrete stove


(3) units drum smoke house


Knives and utensils



Net return

Annual revenue


Less: Annual production cost



Return on Investment

Net return


Fixed investment



Source: Canning of Smoked Bangus, PCAARD, Vol. Vll.

Duck raising

Remote coastal areas often lack the supply of poultry meat and eggs essential to good nutrition and health. If it is available, the price is more expensive compared to urban centers.

One alternative is duck (itik or bibi) raising. Duck raising does not need much labor and care. This allows mothers, children or other members of the family to engage in a profitable food-based enterprise. Ducks are efficient producers of animal protein for the family and provide extra income.

Ducks require simple shelter, are resistant to common poultry diseases and can thrive on feeds locally available. It is an economical, useful and multipurpose water fowl appropriate to coastal areas.

They grow best along watered areas. The presence of mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs in most coastal areas are rich natural sources of food. Ducks are voracious eaters and efficient scavengers.

In many coastal areas where malarial disease is prevalent (because of the presence of mosquito larvae that thrive in brackishwater), duck raising can minimize-if not control-its incidence by feeding on mosquito larvae (worm-like). However, a few crops in coastal areas can also be destroyed by ducks.

Duck (itik or bibi)


The traditional multipurpose breed is white or black; the most commonly raised in most rural areas, it can lay 100-120 eggs per year. The improved Pateros breed can lay 120-200 eggs per year. The egg-type Khaki Campbell breed can lay 200-250 eggs per year. Newly-introduced hybrid-egg types, like CV-2000, can lay 250 eggs and up. The recommended breeds for coastal areas are Muscovy and Pateros (mixed colors).

Different production methods

There are four commonly used production systems in the Philippines.

Scavenging system

This is most widely used in coastal and inland areas. A flock of 3() and below are allowed to range free over the village and return to the homeyard in the evening.

Herding system

Growing or laying ducks is allowed into wet lands, irrigation areas or harvested paddy fields scavenging for food during the day. They are herded into enclosures during the evening and night. If the natural feed supply is exhausted, they are transferred to other feeding sites.

Landing system

This is common in South Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia, where vast tracts of swamplands are available. The ducks arc provided with floating houses with fences on rafts. They feed on aquatic animals and plants given to them or by scavenging.

Confinement or intensive system

This is practiced by commercial growers with large flocks of more than 100 birds. They are kept in pen systems with shelters and are fed with available, commercial feeds.

Proposed design of duck shelter in coastal areas.

Management and care

A household may start with 15 birds of 13 female (ducks) and 2 males (drakes), as its source of food and income.

Most houses within tidal fluctuations have their own open porch for drying fish, etc. One can build the ducks' shelter under the porch or under the house. A one-half meter clearance from the highest tide level area should be allowed below the flooring of the ducks' house. A three-feet clearance from the family house floor to the ducks' house floor is enough. This can be done by using bamboo slats that are closely nailed to the flooring. Bamboo fences may also be provided. Place rice straw or other grass materials on the floor as litter. Provide nests for laying or brooding. One can use bamboo, discarded tires or other containers as feeders. Also, provide ladders. Ducks in coastal areas usually perform well because of the presence of aquatic and marine animals, like fish, snails, larvae, etc., and water plants, such as algae and grasses which they can feed on. Supplemental feeding may be done with kitchen leftovers, trash fish, rice bran, corn, cassava and other grains that can be bought for extra feeding, if necessary.

Allow at least two to three ducks to brood their eggs as replacement stocks. The rest of the eggs may be used for family consumption and/or sale. Peak laying of ducks is 18 months after six to seven months. Dispose or sell all the flock after the 1 8-month period, if there is a replacement available.

If the village has a history of recurring common fowl, diseases like Avian Pest, Fowl Pox and Fowl Cholera, request the services of the Municipal Livestock Technician for vaccination of the birds.

Economics of production—duck raising

Raising ducks may be a profitable project, especially in a rice-growing area with sufficient supply of water. Based on the experience of Mr. Antero Villareal of Barangay Plaridel, Llanera, Nueva Ecija, who started with only 200 ducklings in his 500-sq-m backyard and P7,000 as seed capital, a net profit of P17,850 from sales of fresh duck eggs was realized after five months. In 1987, he again bought 2,500 female ducklings at P8.50 each from Pampanga. He earned a net profit of P 150,000 from the eggs laid by 900 ducks in 1989 and used the money to buy the 20,000 sq m ricefield he is cultivating.

Today, he owns a balut factory and his 800 ducks provide most of his freshegg requirements: 600 for sale daily; 2,000 for salted eggs; 12,000 for balut production every three days; and 3,000 for hatching every week. His market extends up to the Munoz-San Jose City area (Greenfields, June 1993).

Pot gardening for coastal areas

Majority of the houses in the fishing communities in Southern Philippines or Mindanao are constructed in areas within tidal influence. Hence, there are no lands to grow vegetables.

Far-flung coastal fishing villages are practically isolated from the sources of vegetables important to nutrition and health. Vegetables in town centers are also quite expensive. A fisherman in Mindanao can catch enough fish for his family's consumption; vegetables, however, are quite in short supply to achieve a balanced or improved nutrition.

Yet, a combination of vegetable and fish preparations is not only more nutritious but also more palatable.

Vegetable gardening may provide part-time employment to family members. Mothers or youth can raise vegetables in pots. In general, common vegetable varieties, like eggplants, tomatoes, pechay, etc., do not require complex technology.

Fisherfolk families are now oriented and encouraged to diversify available household labor to engage in meat, egg and vegetable production not only to provide variety of food for better nutrition and health but also for added income.

Pot gardening

A 50-container vegetable garden can be attended to easily as a part-time activity of fisherfolk. Plastic bags, tin cans, clay pots or indigenous materials, like bamboo, discarded wooden boat and coconut husk, may serve as growing pots.

Mindanao has the longest rainfall belonging to Types II and IV climatic zones of at least eight months' wet season. This is about the growing period of most seasonal vegetable varieties, like beans, squash, tomatoes, eggplants, spinach, etc. Extra water containers from rainwater can be provided for the 50 vegetable pots.

A community-type vegetable nursery is one of the priority projects of Agricultural Technicians (ATs) in the villages. The ATs can also provide the necessary training and information for various vegetable varieties. With 50 vegetable pots or containers, a fisherman can raise at least five kinds of vegetables of 10 plants each.

Methods of pot gardening

Mix one-fourth part compost or animal manure with one-third part of garden soil (preferably coming from rich, light to medium soil). Fill up the containers with the soil mixture.

Vegetables that are large-seeded, like beans, squash, etc., can be planted directly to the pots. Sow small-seeded varieties' like tomatoes, pechay, etc., first in seedbeds for two to three weeks before transplanting them. Vine plants, like squash or ampalaya (bitter gourd), can climb the rooftops of the house or porch.

Almost all houses above water have porches for many uses, such as for drying salted fish, for fishing paraphernalia, etc. A bamboo or wooden rail may be provided at the edges of the porch to place the pots. Another way is to place three to four rack-type bamboo or wooden tiers to place the pots. Three to four horizontal poles can also be used where you can hang the containers.

Rail-type pot gardening for coastal areas.

Rack type of vegetable pots.

Hanging type of vegetable pots.

Care of plants

Pot gardening under coastal conditions is believed to be less prone to vegetable pest and diseases, although this is not yet properly documented. Do not spray pesticides in the vegetable gardens because of their bad effects. Instead, use plant repellents, like marigold flower, etc. These can also serve as decors, beautifying a fisherman's house. In addition, ducks eat insects which minimize pest infestation.

Most vegetable varieties do not require too much water. When there is no rain for five to seven days, some varieties need watering.

Additional compost can be done during replanting. Some vegetable varieties like, tomatoes, eggplant, etc., can be pruned and fertilized to produce new growth. Pruning vegetables also hastens harvesting.


One-time harvesting can be done on short, leafy vegetables like pechay or mustard after 50-60 days. Most fruit vegetables are harvested continuously. Part of the harvest can be sold to neighbors or nearby markets.


Practically, the expenses in coastal pot gardening are very minimal. Seeds can be requested free from neighboring inland villages or public nurseries. Containers can be collected from nearby villages. Expenses can be incurred in putting up rails, racks or hangers for the pots. A 50-pot garden will need at least P250.00. Depending on the combination of vegetables to be grown, one popular vegetable in great demand is eggplant. The eggplant can give at least 40 fruits per fruiting season of four to six months. With 50 plants producing 40 fruits, one can have 2,000 fruits. This will easily give an income of P1,000 (lowest estimate) in one-half year.

Vegetables are high-profit crops in coastal areas.

Salt production using Plastic sheets

Table salt (sodium chloride) is an important product in the coastal areas for household and industrial uses and especially for fish processing like salted-fish drying, fish sauce (patis) and fish paste (bagoong). Salt production can be done by family members who do not brave the high seas for fishing. Housewives, youth and children can undertake the work. The production technique being advocated here puts idle and barren open coastal lands into productive use and minimize mangrove destruction from the pond-tile method of producing salt.

Traditionally, the coastal provinces in the Philippines with the Type 1 climate of distinct dry and wet seasons, like Paranaque, Bulacan, Pangasinan and Occidental Mindoro, are the biggest producers of salt. However, due to the conversion of salt ponds into subdivisions and prawn culture in the 1980's in the first three provinces, Occidental Mindoro is now the number one producer of salt. Salt production, using plastic sheet, is now recommended for various coastal areas, regardless of the type of prevailing climate. It is also about 80 percent less expensive than the traditional pond-tile method. The plastic ponds can be provided with roll-over plastic cover in case of rainfall.

Climatic types of the Philippines

Salt-making unit using plastic sheet

Sea water contains 30-40 g of salt per 1000 cc or 1 liter (30-40 kg of salt per 1000 liters). One kilo is about 1 liter.

The plastic ponds have a perimeter frame of 5.0 cm thick lumber (preferably coco lumber where wood lumber is expensive) with varying widths.

The plastic sheet should be black, with thickness of at least .025 mm. Seawater evaporate 2.62 cm more quickly on black color than on white or light color which reflects sunlight.

It is recommended that one-unit plastic pond shall consist of two units rectangular evaporation ponds measuring 12.0 × 6.0 × 0.6 m; two units pre-crystallization rectangular saltbeds measuring 12.19 m × 6. 10 m × 38.10 cm; and, four units crystallization square saltbeds, measuring 6.0 m × 6.0 m × 7.50 cm.

Provide strong posts where the lumber frames are nailed. Hold the plastic sheets in place with thumbtacks.

Proposed small-scale plastic-solar salt production

The land should be well-leveled and cleared of all plants and sharp objects (stones, nails, coral, stumps) that can damage or make hole to the plastic sheet. The land should also be wellcompressed before the frames are placed.

1. Usually, three sets of ponds are needed— evaporation, concentration and crystallization)

2. The position of the different ponds should be gradually sloping towards the lower elevation or drain.

Process of sea water evaporation pond

3. Transfer the sea water more easily to the evaporation pond with the use of manual-type centrifugal pump or pedal pump (used for irrigation) anchored to a wooden platform. This is recommended for a small-scale production of two to four production units. The pumped water shall pass through a wooden or bamboo canal to the evaporation pond. This is done to elevate the flow of sea water to the salt production site by using wooden post where the canals are attached.

Precrystallization process

4. Leave the water in the ponds to evaporate.

5. After reducing the initial volume to one half, siphon off or transfer the brine to the concentration pond. The evaporation time to one half the initial-volume level depends on light intensity, air movement and size of pond. Siphoning can be done with the use of plastic hose with 1.27-1.59 cm hole in varying numbers.

Crystallization process

Crystallization pond

Salt heap space

6. Leave the brine solution in the concentration pond to further evaporate until its initial volume is reduced to one third.

7. Then, siphon it off or transfer to the crystallization pond or saltbeds. Use plastic hose of 1.27-1.59 cm diameter for siphoning. A pail or bucket can also be used but it is labor-and time-consuming. Attach two water faucets of 1.59 cm size between evaporation and concentration if the elevation of the source is higher.

8. Leave the brine in the crystallization pond to evaporate further until it is reduced to one third of its original level. At this time, salt crystals begin to form when the brine is almost evaporated.

· Better-quality salt is obtained when the seawater is filtered through a cotton cloth before transferring to the different evaporation ponds. This is to remove impurities.

· While a salinometer can be used to measure the concentration of salt in the brine, the best indicator for practical purposes is the reduction in the level of the brine solution.

9. Collect the salt crystals and expose them further to sunlight to dry in small heaps.

Harvesting process

Economies of production

The three sets of ponds (evaporation, concentration and crystallization) in the production unit measure 144 sq m each or a total of 432 sq m per unit. The 1991 cost estimate using black plastic sheets, coconut lumber and manual pumps, was about P15.00 per square meter or a high estimate of P7,000 per unit.

At an assumed production of 150 days per year at 20 kg, the expected gross income is P18,000 per unit in about five to six months' thee. Considering that the initial capital cost is deducted from the first year, a three-year period (the least expected lifespan of the unit) can yield at least a gross income of P54,000 per unit, with an initial capital of P7,000.00. This is about 200-250 percent ROI per year. The normal practice of contract sharing is 60 percent for financier and 4() percent for salt producer.

Small-scale salt production can be promoted through public investments by wage-earners who have at least P7,000.00 savings per year to be invested in the so-called "adopt a fisherman family" public-investment scheme. Salt production is a practically risk-free venture that can give high profits.