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!

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