Iloilo, Philippines - Shrimp monoculture in Southeast Asia has had a checkered reputation in the past, and has been blamed for the reduction of mangroves, diminished water quality, and the spread of shrimp diseases.



AquaFish CRSP collaborates with researchers at Igang Marine Laboratory in Iloilo, the Philippines, where studies are ongoing to develop polyculture techniques for marine aquaculture.
Floating pens at Igang Marine Laboratory in Iloilo, the Philippines, contain experimental communities of finfish, shellfish, and seaweeds. Results from these experiments will be shared with local fish farmers in workshops sponsored by AquaFish CRSP. Such polyculture techniques can help small-scale producers diversify income and reduce environmental impact of marine aquaculture.
AquaFish CRSP sponsors workshops throughout the Philippines to share research results with small-scale fish farmers. Workshop participants learn the fundamentals of polyculture and marketing products such as seaweeds and high value shellfish as well as more traditional finfish.
Students of all ages are engaged in an extension workshop sponsored by AquaFish CRSP in Pandan, the Philippines, where small-scale fish farmers are learning techniques to diversify their aquaculture production. AquaFish program support facilitates the connection of research and extension, so the results of research are used to improve to the lives and livelihoods of the local community.


Press Release


Small-scale changes could make long-term improvements in Asian aquaculture

By Peg Herring [email protected]

Sources: Russell Borski ([email protected] and 1-919-515-8105); Evelyn Grace D.J. Ayson ([email protected] and 63-9173081182)

Iloilo, Philippines - Shrimp monoculture in Southeast Asia has had a checkered reputation in the past, and has been blamed for the reduction of mangroves, diminished water quality, and the spread of shrimp diseases.

To address these problems, researchers are helping small-scale fish farmers in coastal parts of the Philippines and Indonesia forge a cleaner, more profitable future with polyculture.

Polyculture is the opposite of monoculture; it involves growing different kinds of plants and animals together so that they feed on different things and recycle each other's leftovers.

With support from the Aquaculture & Fisheries Collaborative Research Support Program or AquaFish CRSP, researchers are teaching small farmers sustainable polyculture technologies that are mangrove-friendly and keep from loading coastal waters with pollution.

Headquartered at Oregon State University, AquaFish CRSP is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Mirroring the diversity of species being promoted in polyculture, the CRSP research team itself represents several U.S., Filipino, and Indonesian agencies and universities.

Evelyn Ayson is part of the AquaFish CRSP Filipino team. A fisheries scientist with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Iloilo, Ayson heads the research division of SEAFDEC's aquaculture department.

To design a polyculture system takes knowing which aquatic organisms are compatible. Much experimental work happens at SEAFDEC's Igang Mariculture Park in Guimaras, where floating cages just offshore harbor nurseries of everything from microscopic larval abalone to grouper broodstock the size of small whales.

"We are testing dozens of species for polyculture in brackish water ponds and marine cages," said Ayson.

First, the creatures need to get along, especially in open-water cage culture. For example, sea cucumbers (sediment-dwelling mollusks prized in Asian cuisine) are intimidated by rabbitfish that sometimes invade the cages and force the mollusks to hide under the sand and stop feeding. Similarly pufferfish, which also are not part of the polyculture study, feed on sea cucumbers. Pufferfish share the same marine habitat and have, on occasion, made their way into the cages and devoured Ayson's experiments at Igang.

Eventually, what researchers learn here is used to teach polyculture methods to small-scale and subsistence fish farmers in the Philippines and Indonesia. Focusing on communities hit hard by natural disaster or poverty, the AquaFish CRSP has co-sponsored a series of workshops on seaweed culture to audiences of local fish farmers.

Seaweeds in polyculture help absorb dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus that can build up in water from the uneaten feed and waste that accumulate around fish cages. Seaweeds are also valuable as a source of agar, a thickening agent for candy, and in highly refined form, a laboratory medium for medical research.

At a recent workshop in Aceh, Indonesia, where the 2005 tsunami wiped out much of the shrimp monoculture ponds, fish farmers learned about seaweed varieties and the basics of planting, harvesting, drying, and marketing. None of these farmers individually could hope to harvest enough seaweed to attract a significant market, but working as a collective, it could be possible.

"We are training farmers how to process their raw seaweed into more marketable forms and providing them with a new opportunity for income, especially small businesses operated by women," said Russell Borski, a professor of biology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who is the U.S. lead in the multinational CRSP research team.

This was one of several dozen extension training sessions the AquaFish CRSP collaborative research team facilitates each year. Another workshop focuses on culturing sea cucumber, as both a valuable seafood product and as an important scavanger in many polyculture systems. for the sustainable fish farm community that researchers are testing.

That's the twin goal of the AquaFish CRSP research, according to Borski. "It's about finding sustainable solutions and creating meaningful work for the poorest people of the world."


About the AquaFish Collaborative Research Support ProgramAquaFish CRSP, which supports aquaculture and fisheries research in 20 countries, aims to improve diets; generate income for small-scale fish farmers and fishers; promote sustainable environmental practices; and enhance trade opportunities. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and by participating U.S. and Host Country institutions. Oregon State University serves as the lead institution responsible for technical and programmatic leadership of AquaFish CRSP in the United States and abroad.