Golden harvest: out-of-school-youth find success in seaweed farming

Youth trainees visit their seaweed farms during a practical examination In an island like Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi, where bounty from the sea is the source of life, its residents must find the means to sustain their resources, livelihood and ways of survival. It is difficult to do so when forces of nature and diseases brought about by environmental conditions compete with productivity and efficiency. For three pondohans in Sitangkai (Sikulan, Tinambak Lugus, and Sipangkot) whose main source of income is seaweed farming, having the Sitangkai SPE3 (Seaweed Productivity Enhancement through Education and Extension) Project introduced into their communities was the answer they were waiting for.

The SPE3 Project is supported by the Philippine Development Assistance Programme, Inc. (PDAP), a non-stock, non-profit organization which aims to reduce poverty and inequity in the Philippines. PDAP is promoting and developing rural enterprises for poverty reduction as a tool in promoting peace in conflict-affected areas.

In these pondohans (a cluster of communities composed of 35-100 households engaged in seaweed farming), conditions of living are hard, and accessibility to basic needs such as food, potable water, medicine and education are difficult to come by. The parents of most children in the pondohans find it expensive to send them to school, so they are introduced instead to an early life of helping with the family's main source of income, seaweed farming. Most of the children have never gone to school. Others who entered elementary schooling had to stop because of the high cost of transportation. Furthermore, farmers in the pondohans often end up losing in their seaweed farms because of diseases and pests. This leaves the farmers unable to pay for their financial obligations.

And so the SPE3 Project was developed and formally launched on October 27, 2007 to address such issues concerning education and poverty by enhancing the skills of Sitangkai's youth seaweed farmers. They were provided with the latest seaweed farming technology and knowledge to improve productivity in their yield and ensure quality harvests and to later serve as extension workers and trainers for their individual communities in Sitangkai. The project also focused on basic literacy through alternative learning, skills for life (SFL) and life skills for employability (LSE) lessons, arts for creative development and fun, group dynamics and team building, and subjects that concentrate on the development of discipline, values, and good moral character among the youth.

The project started with 130 registered youth trainees from the three project areas on its first month of implementation, with 39 coming from Sikulan, 32 from Tinambak Lugus, and 41 from Sipangkot. These numbers were made up of 15-25-year-olds who were mostly non-literates.

SEAFDEC/AQD Visiting Scientist Dr. Anicia Hurtado provided technical skills training on season-long seaweed productivity improvement. The techniques imparted to the trainees are the results of SEAFDEC/AQD’s decades-long research-and-development on seaweeds.

The first classes were held in improvised classrooms (either in the pondohan leader's house or a makeshift barangay multipurpose hall) because of the lack of educational facilities in the communities. One hundred nine (109) trainees from the first batch were able to graduate from the program with impressive growth and noticeable changes in several areas of their lives.

Mr. Abdul receives his medal for outstanding trainee from PDAP Executive Director Jerry E. Pacturan during the ceremony held last April 23, 2008One of the outstanding turnouts from the first batch was Mr. Julpie Abdul, a core leader of the trainees who was one of the first to implement the new technology he had on his crops. He said that formerly, he could only make 300 lines and these would be in danger of being ruined by pests. With SPE3's intervention, his ideas on how to enhance the productivity of his crops and keep them away from diseases were broadened. Now he is able to make twice, sometimes more, of what he yielded before. In addition to teaching these successful techniques to his peers on the island, he also helped a handful of them to read and write. He later added that he now sees a brighter future for seaweed farmers like himself.

Another story is of Mr. Jarson Jalain, another core leader in Sikulan, who was one of the first enrollees of the project. He wasn’t that cooperative or interested in the lessons at first. With some of the boys, he would make jokes in the classroom and take most of the lessons lightly. During the course of the project, he was able to see the effects that the project was doing for him and his community. He said that with the lack of education in the techniques and methods of farming, most of his crops were spoiled by diseases, resulting to very low yields. But now, with the knowledge he got from SPE3, he was able to increase his yield up to 7000 lines more, whereas he could only make up to 1000 before. Because of his good harvests, he is now happily married. He was able to provide a dowry from his income from seaweeds and support his newly formed family.

But the most surprising result of them all was of Mr. Ummik Sabung, who successfully harvested a total of PhP100,000 from his initial PhP1,000 capital. Ummik, who was the silent one in the group and didn’t always stand out, was able to of carefully implement the additional knowledge taught him. He was able to have enough to buy two small motorized boats, a television set, and is now the primary breadwinner of his family. In an interview, he shared that before the project, he was hardly able to make any good harvests because diseases like “ice-ice” spoiled them. When the SPE3 project came in, he was able to improve his seaweed farming by applying the different techniques and methods he learned. He also added that in the past, he would plant up to 600 lines but due to unavoidable diseases, his production decreased. But today, with the new learnings from SPE3, he was able to avoid, if not totally control, the occurrence of these diseases. This has allowed him to make up to 100 lines more per cropping. Nowadays, Ummik is considered as one of the wealthiest seaweed farmers in his island of Sikulan, and is now a quality seedling provider for other seaweed farmers there.

These three graduates are only a few of those who have success stories to tell of their SPE3 experience. With their newly-acquired skills and technology for their farming, the SPE3 Project beneficiaries were able to improve the rate and amount of their produce and income. The participants also turned out to be more equipped as individuals, with enhanced personal, educational, financial, and social status. The SPE3 Project has truly planted seeds that will continue to grow and bear fruits, ready to harvest anytime in the future. – by Alfred Allaga, SPE3 Project Leader, Philippine Development Assistance Programme, Inc. (PDAP)

Visitors from Angola, Papua New Guinea tour AQD

Guests from Angola and Papua New Guinea paid AQD a visit on two separate dates this July.

From left: AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo, Research Division head Dr. Evelyn Grace Ayson, Dr. Xirimbimbi,  Amb. Reyes, Amb. Fonseca, and Consul General Brechet  at AQD's marine fish hatchery On July 7, His Excellency, Hon. Dr. Salomao Xirimbimbi, Angolan Minister of Fisheries and party visited AQD’s Tigbauan Main Station (TMS) to explore possible research collaboration with AQD.

Accompanying Dr. Xirimbimbi were Hon. Flavio Fonseca, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Angola; Hon. Etienne Brechet, Philippine Honorary Consul General in Luanda, Angola; and Hon. Virgilio Reyes Jr, Philippine Ambassador to Pretoria.

The guests were shown AQD’s institutional video to give them a background on AQD’s work. They were then given a tour of AQD’s research facilities.

Dr. Toledo, Atty. Sarmiento and Mr. Pokajam explore the sea cucumber setup  On July 29,  Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority Managing Director Mr. Sylvester Pokajam and Assistant Research Officer Mr. Jerome Tioti dropped by TMS to discuss possible collaboration activities, particularly those involving tilapia, catfish, carp, freshwater prawns, sea cucumber and abalone. 

Also joining them were officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), including Director Atty. Malcolm Sarmiento Jr, National Freshwater Fisheries Technology Center Chief Mr. Melchor Tayamen, BFAR Region 6 Director Drusila Esther Bayate, and Mr. Augusto Natividad of Frabelle Fishing Corp.

AQD bags two awards

Dr. Quinitio (as one of the co-authors) receives the Dr. Elvira O. Tan Memorial Award from Dr. Rafael Guerrero, LBSCFI Chair, R&D Awards Committee for Aquaculture & Marine Fisheries; and Dr. Robert Zeigler, LBSCFI President First author Dr. RamosThe awards keep on coming for AQD.  

The prestigious Dr. Elvira O. Tan Memorial Award for best paper under the aquaculture and inland fisheries category was won for the paper Evaluation of hatchery-based enhancement of the mud crab, Scylla spp. fisheries in mangroves: Comparison of species and release strategies written by Maria Junemie Hazel Lebata-Ramos, Lewis Le Vay, Mark Walton, Joseph Binas, Emilia Quinitio, Eduard Rodriguez and Jurgenne Primavera.

The awarding ceremony took place July 24 at the SEARCA Auditorium in Los Baños, Laguna. In behalf of the main author, Dr. Emilia Quinitio received a plaque from the Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) and cash award from the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD). Dr. Quinitio earlier presented a synthesis of the paper to the Los Baños science community.

With the victory, AQD continues on its legacy of producing award-winning papers in aquaculture. AQD has been the recipient of the Elvira O. Tan Memorial Award more than 20 times, the earliest of which was given in 1987.

Dr. Ramos receives more accolades, having been chosen as one of the three winners of the Japan international award for young agricultural researchers 2009 given out by the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences(JIRCAS).

Dr. Ramos will have a 15-minute presentation during the awarding ceremony slated on November 4 at the University of Tokyo in Japan.

Training courses on milkfish cage culture, abalone hatchery and grow-out

Module 2 of milkfish cage culture in Guimaras

Dr. Catacutan demonstrates aquafeed formulation for the trainees Participants of the second phase of  the Season-long training course on milkfish cage culture module 2 braved the inclement weather and gathered at the covered municipal gymnasium of Nueva Valencia, Guimaras from July 30-31.

A total of 92 trainees from the barangays of Igang, Magamay, and Sto. Domingo participated in the training course.

The first day consisted of  lectures and practical sessions in fish stocking and sampling by Mr. Alex Babol of AQD’s Igang Marine Station (IMS). AQD staff Ms. Dianne Hope Tormon also took the floor, handed out socioeconomic survey forms/questionnaires to the participants, and patiently explained how to fill them out.

On the second day, Scientist Dr. Relicardo Coloso discussed the nutrient requirements of milkfish and other tropical aquaculture species, as well as feed and feeding practices to reduce cost and pollution. This was followed by Scientist Dr. Mae Catacutan’s  lecture and hands-on session on aquafeed formulation, processing of feed ingredients and feed preparation.

The second phase of the milkfish culture project is a collaboration between AQD, Petron Foundation Inc, and Citi Philippines.

Abalone training  yields five graduates

The trainees take notes on the hatchery production of abaloneFive trainees successfully completed the International training course on abalone hatchery and grow-out conducted by AQD from July 2-22, with funding support from the Government of Japan Trust Fund.

The five trainees included Mr. Ibnu Rusdi from Indonesia; Ms. Naw Deborah from Myanmar; Ms. Ma. Christi Nacido from the Philippines; Mr. Jun Ming Zann Tan from Singapore; and Mr. Supakant Chaichotranunt from Thailand. 

For the duration of the training, the participants underwent extensive lecture and practical sessions on hatchery management, culture of natural food organisms, grow-out, harvest, and financial feasibility analysis. It was not all hard work, however, as the trainees also took time off their hectic schedules for field trips.

AQD, St. Paul University ink accord

From left: Dr. Ayson, Sr. Agravante, Dr. Toledo and Ms. Olaguer during the signing of the MOUSt. Paul University (SPU) based in Iloilo City joins the growing list of AQD partner institutions with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last July 10.

The MOU was signed by AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo and SPU president Sr. Carolina Agravante at AQD’s Tigbauan Main Station. AQD Research Division Head Dr. Evelyn Grace Ayson and SPU Research Director Ms. Imelda Olaguer served as witnesses.

The pact aims to develop collaborative training and extension programs; promote the exchange of scientists between the two institutions for instruction, training and related activities; and strengthen the capabilities of both AQD and SPU in the fields of fisheries, aquatic and related sciences, with emphasis on sound environmental practices.

The MOU took effect from the day of signing and is good for five years.

AQD holds Dean DK Villaluz memorial lecture, research seminar

The Dean Domiciano K. Villaluz memorial lecture, an annual event  held in honor of Dean Villaluz, AQD’s first Chief, was held at AQD’s Tigbauan Main Station (TMS) last July 9.

Dr. Fernando Siringan of the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines Diliman Dr. Siringan on Temporal trends of sea surface temperature in the Philippines and some possible consequencestalked about the Temporal trends of sea surface temperature in the Philippines and some possible consequences, Dr. Siringan revealed that sea surface temperatures (SST) around the Philippines and its internal seas are getting warmer. Data also showed that the seas along the Pacific seaboard warmed by about 1.5°C over the past 90 years at a rate accelerating over the past 25 years. 

What are the negative effects of SST rise? Dr. Siringan mentioned that changes in shallow and deep-ocean water primary production have been observed. Certain dinoflagellates associated with harmful algal blooms, such as Pyrodinium bahamense, also flourish in warmer waters. In addition, the rising sea levels in the Philippines is due to the warming of the seas. Thus, coastal erosion and worsening floods along the coastal plains have persisted in the country.

A research seminar was also held that same day, whereDr. Suarez on The SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department in Philippine science and society Dr. Raul Suarez of the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology of the University of California, Santa Barbara spoke about The SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department in Philippine science and society. According to him, data have shown that the reason the Philippines is poor is the lack of “intangible capital,” i.e., the skills and education of its people, their ability to work together to achieve common goals, and the quality of social institutions. He also noted that, sadly, the country lags behind its neighbors in scientific productivity, and that science has not contributed significantly to increasing intangible capital.

Consultative meeting on aquafeed standards

AQD scientist Dr. Relicardo Coloso took part in a Consultative meeting to draft a Philippine National Standard (PNS) for aquaculture feeds.

The meeting, which took place last July 16, was held in Bacolod City to present the draft PNS and solicit feedback from stakeholders.

Dr. Coloso presented an Overview of Philippine aquaculture feed industry. Future prospects, according to Dr. Coloso, include improved formulations for environment friendly feeds for sustainable aquaculture, more information on micronutrient requirements, additives and enhancers. He also mentioned that new areas for aquaculture development and new formulations of feeds for various species will expand the aquaculture feed market by at least 5% that would cause more pressure on feed resources. Inadequate formulation of aquaculture feeds may affect the income of aquaculture farmers/operators and eventually the quality of the environment. The need for quality control in aquaculture feeds is very important to safeguard the health of the consumers. Aquaculture feed millers and aquaculture farmers/operators must be responsible to make sure that the feeds they manufacture or use pass certain standards.

The development of this standard was started in 2007 when the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council–Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (NAFC–CFA) created a group to work in identifying fish and fishery commodities for standardization.

Aquaculture feeds was identified and recommended by the NAFC-CFA Working Group on Fisheries Product Standardization because of its economic importance.

This activity is one of four meetings as a prerequisite prior to the approval of the standard as PNS. – by Mark Matubang, DA-Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards

Conferences on investments, catfish, genetics

Region 12 1st investment conference

Dr. Aralar (seated, 3rd from left) with other resource persons and staff of DTI Region 12, one of the conference co-sponsors Scientist Dr. Ma. Lourdes Aralar represented AQD at the Region 12 first investment conference (ICON) held last July 22-23.

The conference, adopting the theme Channeling substantial resources towards investments, was conducted at General Santos City.

Dr. Aralar presented the available technology for the larval rearing, nursery and grow-out of the giant freshwater prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii, locally known as ulang.

At the end of the break-out session for ulang, P4 million worth of investments have been tagged by interested participants/investors who want to venture into the culture of the commodity. It was noted that the supply of ulang cannot keep up with the demand, hence, investments on its culture was included in the ICON.

Also included were lectures on the technology, financing and market matching for investors on eco-tourism site development; coconut sugar; sap and honeybee production; barako coffee; sunflower farming; engineering and architectural designs; pineapple; moringa (malunggay); and cardava banana. 

The conference was organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center (NERBAC) Region 12, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Small and Medium Enterprise Development (SMED) Council of General Santos City, and the Department of Tourism.

2nd hito conference in GenSan

Dr. Catacutan talks about formulating feeds out of indigenous materials for catfish; (From left) Ms. Rochelle Otoc, Pangasius Industry Desk Officer of Region XXII; Ms. Evangelista, and Mr. Lao, President of the Mindanao Business Council AQD’s Dr. Mae Catacutan and Ms. Antonietta Evangelista participated in the 2nd hito conference held in General Santos City last July 21.

Dr. Catacutan was on hand to present a paper on Formulated feeds out of indigenous materials for catfish, while Ms. Evangelista talked about the Status of catfish aquaculture industry in the Philippines and Natural food for freshwater species.

Both were able to present AQD’s contribution to the the catfish industry in the Philippines which includes studies on the hatchery, nursery as well as grow-out technologies for the culture of the native catfish Clarias macrocephalus. Because of this, AQD was officially identified by the Mr. Vicente Lao, president of the Mindanao Business Council, as one of the lead agencies to help the catfish industry.

Queries on disease management and feed cost were raised and answered by Dr. Catacutan and Ms. Evangelista.
Problems on the slow growth and low survival of hatchery produced fry (Pangasius species) were also brought up. 

The Department of Trade & Industry 12, Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources 12 and the SOCSARGEN Catfish Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SOCAFAMPC) were the main sponsors of the event.

Forum on GM technologies in Quezon City

AQD scientist Dr. Maria Rowena Eguia presented a paper on the current Local situation on GM technology: focus on GM tilapia during the Forum on GM (genetic modification) technologies organized by the Network Opposed to Genetically Modified Organisms (NO2GMOs!) last July 20 in Diliman, Quezon City.

Dr. Eguia’s presentation, entitled Are we ready for ‘Franken’ tilapia, was well-received by the audience. The attendees were relieved to know that farmed GM fish have not been commercially approved for distribution. The NO2GMOs was pleased to note that AQD upholds the Code of conduct for responsible aquaculture, which states that the use and propagation of GMOs is not encouraged in SEAFDEC member-countries.

Also discussed were the international trends on new GM technologies and modern biotechnology applications (GM tree, GM virus, GM pharma, GM fish) and research done in the Philippines on genetically modified rice, papaya, eggplant, papaya and peanuts, among other crops.

Dr. Eguia hopes that in the future, AQD resource persons continue to participate in similar fora so that the general public is made aware of the issues/problems that arise from the use and/or misuse of modern biotechnologies.

Bookwriting workshop at AQD

AQD held a bookwriting workshop attended by its senior staff on July 8 held at AQD’s Tigbauan Main Station.

From left: Prof. Tayo, Dr. PerezThe first speaker, Prof. Gilma Tayo of the University of the Philippines Visayas, shared her experiences in writing two textbooks in her presentation on Translating jargon: introduction to bookwriting. She defined a texbook as a topic book, a theme information package, a guide to the teaching process. She also mentioned the need to define the target clients and goals of the book and the materials needed. She also went through the entire process of bookwriting, from writing to printing.

Dr. Gregorio Perez of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Region 6 on the other hand updated the participants on the Status of fisheries education in Western Visayas. He noted that there are 11 schools in the region currently offering fisheries degree programs, with enrollment ranging from zero to 613.

The two workshop groups tackle aquaculture science and socioeconomics & policyIn the afternoon session, participants were divided into two groups for the workshop, which was facilitated by Prof. Tayo and Dr. Relicardo Coloso, chair of AQD’s Publications Review Committee. It was decided that AQD will publish three textbooks – one tackling Aquaculture Science and the other two to deal with Socioeconomics and Policy. Research Division Head Dr. Evelyn Grace Ayson will coordinate the first textbook, with Scientist Dr. Nerissa Salayo and Training and Information Division Head Mr. Renato Agbayani handling the other two.

The participants identified a time frame for the publication, the target audience and promotional activities for the textbooks.

Guests visit AQD stations

KSA dignitaries visit AQD

AQD's Ms. Bernardita Eullaran shows off the milkfish larvae raised at AQD’s integrated hatchery to Dr. Felix Ayson, Dr. Anwar Eissa Al-Sunaiher and Mr. Baheej Mohammad RasemDr. Anwar Eissa Al-Sunaiher, Aquaculture Department Director of the Ministry of Agriculture of Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); Mr. Baheej Mohammad Rasem, Fish Farming Center (FFC) Director of Jeddah, KSA visited AQD’s Tigbauan Main Station (TMS) from August 3-7.

Dr. Al-Sunaiher and Mr. Baheej were accompanied by Dr. Felix Ayson, a former AQD scientist and currently the Chief Technical Adviser of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. They visited AQD to discuss future collaborations between AQD and FFC and learn about its various research programs and see its research facilities.

On their first day at TMS, they were briefed about AQD’s research activities by Research Division Head Dr. Evelyn Grace Ayson. Specialists on AQD’s research programs, namely Dr. Mae Catacutan (nutrition and feed development), Dr. Gilda Lio-Po (fish health), Dr. Relicardo Coloso (marine fish), Dr. Fe Dolores Estepa (mud crab and shrimp domestication), and Ms. Ma. Rovilla Luhan (seaweed strain improvement) were also present during the meeting.

The visitors toured AQD’s library, hatcheries and laboratories at TMS, Dumangas Brackishwater Station (DBS), and Igang Marine Station (IMS).

PBA cager, missionaries, private sector tour AQD

Research Division Head Dr. Evelyn Grace Ayson (leftmost) talks about the AQD hatchery with Mr. Rey Evangelista (rightmost) and family AQD's Mr. Charlemagne Recente shows the missionaries the seahorses cultured at AQD Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Mr. Rey Evangelista together with his family dropped by AQD to see AQD’s museum (the FishWorld) and hatcheries last July 15.

Fifteen young missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on the other hand, toured AQD last August 28. Among the facilities they visited include the FishWorld museum and the seahorse, abalone and integrated hatcheries.

Also visiting AQD were Mr. Jonah Nobleza Mr. Zemar Jul of Strategic Development Cooperation Asia from Davao City last May 11-15; Ms. Narisa Lintorio, Ms. Rowena De Mesa and Mr. Yan Mark Cabanes from Iloilo City last June 4; and Mr. Stephen Sungkip and eight other personnel from Action for Enterprise (AFE) based in Cebu City last June 24-25.

RiSci at BFS

AQD Associate Researcher Ms. Antonietta Evangelista (leftmost) briefs students on BFS’ activities at the bighead carp hatcheryAQD’s  Binangonan Freshwater Station (BFS) played host to the faculty and students of Rizal National Science High School (RiSci) based in Binangonan, Rizal. 

The visit, which took place last May 22, aimed to expose the students to various research facilities of BFS and acquaint them on the different research and training undertakings of AQD.  The visit also gave students some insights in preparing a research proposal.

The visitors – comprised of more than 200 students, six teachers and four Parent, Teacher and Community Association (PTCA) officers – were divided into two batches during the lecture presentation, and into four during the tour of facilities.

The visitors were fascinated with the varied aquatic life forms reared and maintained at the station.

AQD celebrates 36th anniversary

Clockwise from top left: Dr. Toledo, Atty. Sarmiento address the crowd during the 36th anniversary program; Mr. Agbayani and Dr. Marte reminisce on AQD’s early years and give the audience some inspirational words as well On the bright and sunny morning of July 9, the AQD community, guests and well-wishers were in a barrio fiesta mood, gathering to commemorate AQD’s 36th founding anniversary.

AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo reflected on this year’s theme, SEAFDEC/AQD: Committed to mitigate the effects of climate change through responsible aquaculture. He acknowledged that climate change is a huge issue, and for aquaculture, its effects are just being felt though not yet fully studied.

At AQD, it was observed that milkfish breeding has lengthened to become year-round, and as a result, production of milkfish fry has been year-round too. While definitely good for milkfish culture, he also noted the negative effects of climate change for fishing communities. In Malalison Island where AQD has a coastal fisheries resource management project, for example, the beach has been eroded by stronger storms while bleaching has occurred in coral reefs.

The keynote speaker, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director and SEAFDEC Council Director Atty. Malcolm Sarmiento praised AQD, saying that AQD’s “brand of aquaculture” is different, anchored on unwavering commitment to sustainable aquaculture through science-based research.

With aquaculture being the new centerpiece of the Philippine government’s food production program, Atty. Sarmiento noted the national policy to encourage fishers to switch from capture fisheries to fish farming. In this vein, he requested AQD to assist BFAR in formulating a 5-year development plan for high-value species to be reared in mariculture parks throughout the country. Moreover, he hopes to collaborate with AQD on projects that will result in developing more innovative approaches to climate change.

Dr. Clarissa Marte, Head of AQD’s Technology Verification and Demonstration Division, gave an inspirational talk and reminisced about the early years as well. She started by noting that AQD’s population is now composed of four generations, with the pioneering staff in their 60s belonging to the first. Dr. Marte recalled that she and her colleagues joined AQD without any knowledge about fish, having come from various backgrounds. Over the course of their work did they learn to love fish and work with fish. She reminisced about some of the groundbreaking work they did, including milkfish breeding and, with former AQD Chief Dr. Flor Lacanilao, the multidisciplinary approach in implementing the fisheries resource management project in the island of Malalison. She hoped that AQD staff continue to love their work, find fulfillment in it, and remain challenged by it.

Mr. Renato Agbayani, Head of the Training and Information Division, also shared his experiences and wisdom. According to him, the reason he lasted long at AQD was because of his love and passion for his work. He echoed Dr. Marte’s advice to value, find fulfillment, and enjoy work. Moreover, he espoused the value of being a good worker. He further said that SEAFDEC has been a good provider, and has enabled him to provide shelter for his family, educate his children, and enjoy the little pleasures in life. He closed by paraphrasing the famous words of US President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what SEAFDEC can do for you, but what you can do for SEAFDEC.”

Dr. Toledo and Deputy Chief Dr. Teruo Azuma awarded certificates of appreciation to employees and retirees who have served AQD for at least 20 years. One retiree, Mr. Manuel Garcesto of the Administrative and Finance Division, urged the employees to serve the Department “with utmost sincerity.”

Where does AQD go from here? Dr. Toledo pointed to the new strategic plans to show the way. He also reiterated AQD’s vision to be a global leader in the generation and transfer of appropriate and sustainable tropical aquaculture technologies for food security and holistic human development. He also thanked AQD staff, government agencies, and other stakeholders for their contributions through the years.

Happy 36th, AQD!