In line with the government’s push for a more productive aquaculture sector, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has turned over 12 mangrove crab nursery sites to fisherfolk at the BFAR Palnab Brackishwater Demonstration Fish Farm and Nursery in the province of Catanduanes on March 8, 2022.

Apart from the aquaculture infrastructure, techno-demonstration projects, as well as other livelihood interventions such as tilapia fingerlings, bottom gill nets, fiber-glass boats and other equipment worth Php6, 000,000.00 were also given to various fisherfolk-beneficiaries at Catanduanes State University (CatSU), together with the local government of Catanduanes, and members of the academe.

The island province of Catanduanes is one of the country’s richest biodiversity hotspots, being gifted with a large coastal belt that provides livelihood to many fisherfolk. The presence of abundant mangrove forests in the province makes it the most prominent source of wild crablets in the Bicol Region and its neighboring provinces. However, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the mangrove crab production in Catanduanes has decreased from its peak in 2013 with almost 120 metric tons of production, to 96 metric tons in 2016, and further to 16 metric tons in 2017 to 2020. This marked a record-high 450% decrease in mangrove crab production in the province once known as the “Crab Capital of the Philippines.”

As a localized approach to arrest the decline in production and to allow the recovery of the crab industry in the province, the DA-BFAR oversaw the establishment of mangrove crab seed banks, nurseries and grow-out production farms in the municipalities of Virac, Bato, Baras, Gigmoto, Viga, Panganiban, Bagamanoc, San Andres, Caramoran and Pandan in Catanduanes. Being mandated under Republic Act 10857, the aquaculture facilities are part of the 37 multi-species hatcheries and aquaculture facilities all slated to be completed in 2022 mandated under 22 Republic Acts during the 16th and 18th Congress.

The mangrove crab nursery project is expected to yield an annual production of over 1.2 million pieces of crablets, accounting for 90% of the yearly crablet requirement needed by the pond operators in the province. Overall, the facilities are projected to provide a profit of more than Php 31 million for project beneficiaries. With this, the DA-BFAR aims to provide stronger support to the industry of mangrove crab in the region and ensure its sustainability in the years to come.

During his keynote speech at the event, BFAR National Director Eduardo B. Gongona said, “Sa aktibong pagtutulungan ng DA-BFAR, ng mga grupo ng mangingisda, at ng inyong komunidad, makakaasa kayo na patuloy ang aming paglilingkod upang matugunan ang inyong pangangailangan.” [With DA-BFAR, fisherfolk groups and your communities working together, you can count on our continued service to address your needs.]

Director Gongona added that aquaculture industry productivity-boosting projects are anchored on the Department of Agriculture’s strong commitment to ensuring fish farmers’ “Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita”, a dual goal for the agri-fisheries sector that Secretary William D. Dar has introduced.