|Economics of the Philippine Milkfish Resource System (UNU, 1982, 66 pages)|
|II.The procurement sub-system: fry gathering and distribution and fingerling rearing|
There are a number of different passive or active filtration methods used to gather fry, ranging from the simple scissors dipnet (sakag or hudbud in Pilipino) that can easily be used by children, to the more sophisticated bulldozer net which can be operated with a motorized vessel (fig. 22).
By far the most common method used by gatherers is sagap (sapysp in Visayas), a seine of up to five metres in length. In certain parts of the country, the sagap has been replaced by the more recently developed fry trawl, bulldozer, and sweeper, all of which produce a higher annual catch per gatherer. Antique Province in Western Visayas has been the centre of these technological improvements, the fry trawl having been introduced 20 years ago, the bulldozer 10 years ago, and the sweeper just 5 years ago.
Gatherers work in teams, the composition of which depends upon the gear used. Sagap requires two members to use the net, and an optional third member to carry fry from the net to a basin on shore in which fry are temporarily stored, and to sort out predators and other unwanted species. The attractiveness of the sakag or hudhud and the sweeper comes from their being easily handled by a single gatherer. Bulldozer nets are used primarily at night with lanterns and propelled by bamboo poles by a pair of gatherers at depths of up to three metres. The bulldozer can, therefore, operate beyond the reach of sakag, sagap, and sweepers, all of which are limited to wading depth. A filter net fixed in creek mouths, and known as saplad or tangab, is most efficient during the twice-monthly high tide periods, when it is often operated 24 hours per day by teams of gatherers. Three eight member teams who used a single saplad in Antique were able to catch 3 million fry in three days of consecutive high tides in May 1977.12b
Revenue from the daily catch is usually divided equally among team members, with an extra share going to the owner of the gear. Of all the gear types, the fixed filter trap (saplad or tangab) appears to be the most productive per gatherer followed by the bulldozer and then sagap.16 Most gatherers are part-time fishermen, with fry gathering contributing only 22 per cent to total household income. Fry gatherers, similar to the majority of Philippine smallscale fishermen, have household incomes well below the poverty thresholds established by the Development Academy of the Philippines.17
Kumagai et al., 15 have recently completed an in-depth study of fry-gathering gear on Panay Island, Western Visayas, in part to determine the extent of mortality and damage to fry during gathering and before storage, prior to shipment. They estimate an average 14.3 per cent mortality during the gathering operation, and also report a high percentage of injured fry irrespective of gear type, place, and sea conditions.
Fry are scooped from the net with a white porcelain basin, against the background of which the eyes of the almost transparent fry can be seen. After being stored temporarily on the beach, fry are either delivered to the concessionaire, to be counted so that the gatherer can be paid for the day's catch, or stored by the gatherer for later sale. Counting fry is done by a two-member team. One scoops out a few fry with a small bowl or clam shell and calls out the number to the second person, who separates a corresponding number of shells, pebbles, or stones of similar size. After 1,000 5,000 fry have been thus counted, their density can be used as the basis for comparison for the separation of the rest of the catch into lots of similar size. Counting is, therefore, tedious and imprecise when large numbers of fry are involved.
While fry are being temporarily stored in clay pots or plastic basins (50 cm diameter) predatory and competitive species are sorted out and discarded. At this early stage of development, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between milkfish fry and the fry of other species. The experienced sorter, however, can pick out an astonishing number of unwanted species, among them the Hawaiian bid-bid or tenpounder (Elope hawailensis), buan-buan or tarpon (Megalops cyprinoides), and bagaong or grunter (Therapon sp.). The bidbid and buan-buan are particularly voracious predators of the young milkfish fry according to gatherers, concessionaires, and pond operators. Unwanted fish are most often discarded on the beach rather than returned to the sea.
Concessionaires, once they have purchased the fry, store them for an average of four to five days and it is during this period that feeding usually begins. The yolk of a boiled egg mixed with water is sufficient to feed approximately 50,000 fry, or ten basins of fry per day. Two hours after feeding, the water must be changed to avoid contamination from uneaten egg yolk and from excrete. Concessionaires report a further 5.8 per cent mortality of fry during this period while awaiting resale to subsequent buyers. Mortality rates dramatically increase after 15 days' storage despite continued feeding, reaching 20 - 30 per cent after 21 days and 30 - 60 per cent after 30 days. Consequently, concessionaires make every effort to sell their fry within the first week after capture.