Blue swimming crab industry in Iloilo seen to get boost in new hatchery

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) chief Dan D. Baliao led the inauguration of the hatchery for blue swimming crabs in the Northern Iloilo State University–Concepcion Campus on August 31, 2023. (Photo courtesy of iChannel Multimedia Production)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The inauguration of the hatchery for blue swimming crabs (locally known as kasag) in the Northern Iloilo State University – Concepcion Campus on Thursday is seen to bolster the wild population of the species and increase its yields.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., Provincial Administrator Dr. Raul Banias, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) chief Dan D. Baliao, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office representative, and Concepcion Mayor Millard Villanueva led the inauguration of the first hatchery of its kind in the province.

Villanueva emphasized that the inauguration and blessing of the crab hatchery is timely, citing that the local government has undertaken several initiatives over the past months to revitalize crab production in the town.

“This is really a milestone on the part of the fisheries sector here in the town of Concepcion… This is timely because this will be a consolidation of our efforts in order to restore the blue crab industry here in Concepcion,” he explained.

Villanueva said that the Concepcion town is considered one of the producers of blue crab in the entire Philippines but its population and catch rates have been dwindling over the past years.

“We have [also observed] nga ang aton sakayan as of now, [there are] only 250 boats dedicated sa crabs ang nakapregister pa lang. It means na medyo nahirapan na ang aton crab industry,” he elaborated.

International marine conservation group Oceana has cited Concepcion as one of the main suppliers of blue swimming crabs in the Philippines. A local crab processing plant in the town is exporting crab products to the United States.

Defensor, meanwhile, stressed that the crabs are a commercially important commodity and the hatchery’s inauguration as a pivotal part of the province’s overall program and initiatives for the management and conservation of the Visayan sea.

“Aside from the enforcement of our laws, aside from environmental management measures, we want concrete steps and measures in the conservation of our Visayan sea and this is a very important part of that,” he said.

According to the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, the Visayan Sea is considered as the major crab fishing ground of the country with which 25 out of 53 crab picking stations are located in the Western Visayas region.

“We want this to be the start of many more initiatives to come, to add concretely to the health of the Visayan sea,” Defensor added.

“This one is our facility for conservation so that we can sustain. We really look forward sa adlaw nga maka disperse na kita sang aton nga mga produkto. We hope that this is just a start,” he continued.

Defensor said the provincial government plans to collaborate with SEAFDEC/AQD and local academic institutions for a research and development program tailored to the region’s fisheries industry.

Baliao, on the other hand, suggested that the operation of the hatchery will “put more science into it” to ensure the success in the spawning and larval dispersal of the blue crabs in the open ocean.

“Let’s put a little science into it para indi mauyang aton kwarta nga sagi gasto da,” he stressed.

Baliao highlighted that there has to be a method to accurately gauge the quantity and population out in the open sea since the common practice among fisherfolks is “a mere dumping system” of the larvae.

“Paghalin didto sa hatchery, dal-on sa lawod tapos buy-an ta lang to. We don’t even know how to estimate how much is left. Did they all survive?” Baliao added.

SEAFDEC will initially operate the hatchery and implement the stock enhancement program. It will also conduct training and educational campaigns for the facility’s handover to local fisherfolk.

The Iloilo provincial government, SEAFDEC/AQD, and BFAR also signed a Memorandum of Agreement during the inauguration.

The proposal for the hatchery in Concepcion town started in 2018 when Dr. Raul Banias was a provincial administrator of Iloilo under the administration of the former governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

A P5 million budget has been earmarked for the construction of the hatchery, in which P3.3 million of the budget was designated for the construction of the cutting-edge facility itself, with the remaining funds allocated to the procurement of the essential start-up operational equipment.