New hatchery for sea cucumber at SEAFDEC

TIGBAUAN, ILOILO – At the price of US$180 to 250 per kilogram of dried sea cucumber in the United States, sea cucumber are good bets for fish farmers wanting to find the new “gold” in aquaculture.

This has driven SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department, the research center based in Iloilo, to develop the hatchery, nursery and grow-out technologies of the sea cucumber Holothuria scabra so that overexploitation of the wild fisheries on which the sea cucumber trade depends will cease or be minimized. Aquaculture can take the pressure off wild stock, enabling it to recover and allowing sustainable management plans to be put in place by local government units and people’s organizations in sea cucumber-rich areas.

Just recently, SEAFDEC built and inaugurated on April 28, 2010 a new sea cucumber hatchery in its main station in Tigbauan, Iloilo. The hatchery can produce as many as 0.2 to 0.5 million sea cucumber juveniles in a 45-day cycle from its ten 3-ton larval rearing tanks and four 8-ton nursery tanks. SEAFDEC has about 100 sea cucumber broodstock at present.

Attending the new hatchery inauguration are the partner-institutions of SEAFDEC in developing science-based sea cucumber technologies, such as the Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 3 (RIA-3) of Vietnam, the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) through the Malaysia-based WorldFish Center (WFC), Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), the Government of Japan Trust Fund (GOJ-TF) and the University of the Philippines Visayas. RIA-3 helped design the SEAFDEC sea cucumber hatchery while ACIAR/WFC and JIRCAS, along with the GOJ-TF, are funding studies on sea cucumber. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has likewise been instrumental in technology development.

Dr. Joebert Toledo, the Chief of SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department, noted that, next to Indonesia, the Philippines is the second largest exporter of dried sea cucumber in the world. In year 2006, the country’s export of sea cucumber totaled 3,532 metric tons valued at US$4.6 million. Sea cucumber, also known as sandfish or beche-de-mer, live on the seabed, look like slugs, are considered delicacies (i.e., aphrodisiacs), and are common ingredients in Chinese medicine.

Dr. Toledo further noted that profit-making for fisherfolk and aquaculturists is not the sole motivation in putting up the hatchery. Sea cucumber are also potential bioremediators in multi-trophic or polyculture systems as they apparently can subsist on or take in uneaten feeds and feces coming from cultured fish. At SEAFDEC, this concept is being tested in black tiger shrimp ponds, and in milkfish and abalone culture. In the latter, sea cucumber are placed under the sea cages to deal with the waste. This is in line with the concept and enforcement by SEAFDEC and the Philippine government, through DA-BFAR, of good management practices in aquaculture for environment protection.

Dr. Toledo also appealed to the new government administration to put more funds in aquaculture research and development because aquaculture is still the best strategy to put food on the tables of poor families in rural areas and to manage local aquatic resources sustainably. Coastal communities and local governments for instance can communally-manage sea ranching and stock release programs for such a valuable commodity as sea cucumber.

SEAFDEC or the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center is a regional treaty organization whose membership extends to the ten ASEAN countries and Japan. It is mandated to promote fisheries development in Southeast Asia. For more information, visit

Ceremonially opening the new SEAFDEC sea cucumber hatchery are (from left to right): SEAFDEC Deputy Chief Dr. Teruo Azuma, JIRCAS visiting scientist Dr. Satoshi Watanabe, SEAFDEC Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo, Dr. David Mills of  WorldFish Center, and Mr. Nguyen Dinh Quang Duy of Vietnam’s Research Institute of Aquaculture No. 3

The collaborating partners with SEAFDEC staff during the hatchery inauguration on April 28, 2010

Indoor larval rearing tanks

Algae is “painted” onto settlement plates for sea cucumber

Sandfish, also known as sea cucumber

AQD Chief reappointed

 AQD Chief Dr. Joebert D. Toledo Dr. Joebert D. Toledo, who hails from Oton, Iloilo, gets a third two-year term as Chief of the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department. SEAFDEC or the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center is a regional treaty organization conducting aquaculture research and development (R &D) and is based in Tigbauan, Iloilo. The trust given to Dr. Toledo by the Philippine government is in recognition of the progress in aquaculture R&D that SEAFDEC has made during the last four years of Dr. Toledo’s leadership.

Among the institutional landmarks in recent years are the significant increase in the number of SEAFDEC’s foreign and local partners, and the increase in the number of researchers/scientists that have joined SEAFDEC and are now working on sustaining aquaculture in view of climate change and other environment issues.

Dr. Toledo has also successful lobbied for the 50% increase in budget allocation from the Philippine government. Aquaculture continues to be an important government strategy for food security and poverty alleviation especially in rural areas, and SEAFDEC plays a significant role in realizing this strategy by developing and refining science-based aquaculture technologies.

SEAFDEC has also assisted the fisherfolk in Guimaras get back on their feet after the 2006 oil spill through a milkfish cage culture livelihood project with Petron Foundation, Citi Foundation and Guimaras LGU. It has collaborated with fellow SEAFDEC member-countries in a human resource development project funded by the Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund of the ASEAN Foundation; and for the Philippines, abalone culture was made the focus of training and extension. There is now a new facility at SEAFDEC, a small-scale abalone and multi-species marine fish hatchery, which demonstrates to the private sector such a profitable venture. SEAFDEC also collaborates with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in a national abalone breeding and culture program while it welcomes private investors in the SEAFDEC mariculture park in Igang, Guimaras.

Dr. Toledo also spearheaded the strategic change in institutional direction, and through a technical experts consultation in Southeast Asia, it was determined that the priority for aquaculture R&D should be small-scale, integrated farms because farmers play a pivotal role in the food supply chain and have better control over the sustainable use of farm resources. SEAFDEC is also primed to go into what scientists call “multi-trophic” aquaculture where fish, abalone, sea cucumber, and seaweeds, among others, can be grown simultaneously in a culture system to maximize resource use, minimize pollution in aquatic environments, and perhaps deal with climate change. This is what Dr. Toledo will set out to accomplish in his new term.

Dr. Toledo is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman (BS Fisheries) and the Hiroshima University, Japan (Masters of Science and Doctor of Agriculture Degree in Applied Biological Science). He is a multi-awarded scientist, authoring or co-writing over 40 research papers, several of which were published in international science journals and proceedings. He was given the Dr. Elvira Tan Memorial Award 2001 for Best Published Paper in Marine Fisheries (together with co-authors M Ahmed, GA Magnayon-Umal, RA Valmonte-Santos, N Lopez, and F Torres Jr.) for the report Bangus fry resource assessment in the Philippines. In 2002, he obtained the DA Secretary's Award for R&D Paper Published in an Institute for Scientific Information-Current Contents journal. In addition, the Gawad Pangisdaan Award for the Outstanding Fisheries Professional was given to him in 2003 by the Philippine Fisheries Association. With co-authors EC Lacierda, CR Lavilla, NJ Ogburn, and NV Golez, he was given the Outstanding Monograph Award by the National Academy of Science and Technology in 2004 for the publication Husbandry and health management of grouper. AQD prepared this monograph on grouper health for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Fisheries Working Group, and the book has been translated into several languages used in Southeast Asia. Recently, Dr. Toledo was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Professional of the Year (Fisheries Technologist) by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

Dr. Toledo’s appointment as a third-termer SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department Chief was announced in Lao PDR during the 42nd SEAFDEC Council Meeting. As the policy-making body of SEAFDEC, the SEAFDEC Council recently met in early April of this year.

Dr. JD Toledo with family

AQD convenes regional technical consultation on aquaculture

AQD convened the Regional technical consultation for sustainable aquaculture (RTC-A) development of Southeast Asia towards 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand from 17 to 19 March 2010.

Participants to the regional technical consultation on aquacultureRTC-A formed part of a series of consultations done by SEAFDEC as a center-wide activity to assess the progress of member-countries and AQD in six thematic areas, to wit: good quality seeds, environment-friendly aquaculture, getting out of the fish meal trap, healthy and wholesome aquaculture, biotechnology and rural aquaculture. These were the thematic areas first identified nine years ago, during the 2001 ASEAN-SEAFDEC Millennium conference.

The country presentations included Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Around 55 participants were present.

For theme 1 (on meeting social and economic challenges), the RTC-A assessment was that the issues are very complex and unique to each country. But overall, aquaculture still plays an important part in national government plans for food security and poverty alleviation, rural development being a strong focus of all the countries. For this area, RTC-A recommended (1) a careful assessment of the contribution and impact of aquaculture in addressing poverty, food security and livelihood; and (2) multi-agency collaboration between and among SEAFDEC and its member-countries, and other regional organizations such as NACA, FAO-RAP, MRC, the WorldFish Centre (all sent representatives to RTC-A) and other interested stakeholders.

For theme 2 (on better seeds for sustainable aquatic food production), RTC-A noted that seedstock availability is still a problem and that there are now socioeconomic and legal issues associated with genetic improvement. In general, the recommendation was better public/private sector partnerships so that small-scale farmers can seek assistance for capacity building in broodstock and hatchery management.

Dr. Tim Flegel of Mahidol University; Dr. Celia Pitogo of AQD who presented the thematic area on wholesome and healthy aquaculture; and Dr. Mali Boonyaratpalin of Thailand's DOF For theme 3 (wholesome and healthy aquaculture), RTC-A was concerned about the emergence of zoonotic diseases, lack of fish health professionals, current disease diagnostic procedures favoring the intensive and large-scale operators, non-production of fish meal substitutes in commercial scale despite experimental successes, and overdevelopment of aquaculture areas that has led to fish kills. The recommendations included promotion of organic farming, certification and quarantine, cost-effective training, government investment in domestication to produce SPF stock, better enforcement of zoning policies, and promoting on-farm feed production.

For theme 4 (on protecting the environment and climate change), RTC-A took note that, among others, there is still excessive use of antibiotics, chemicals, feeds and fertilizers which has led to eutrophication. The recommendation was basically good management practices, and new research on integrated and multi-trophic aquaculture. For climate change, the meeting discussed some impacts to aquaculture like temperature, acidification, drought/flooding (which would necessitate finding new species for culture that are adaptable to changes or developing entirely new culture systems), sea level rise (investment in habitat protection), and greenhouse gas emission (new research on seaweed/algae as biofuel). There was also a recommendation to draw new maps of sites that are not suitable for aquaculture as these are highly vulnerable to climate change.

GOJ-TF has new set of projects for aquaculture

With 2009 being the final year for GOJ-Trust Fund IV, a new set of projects will be implemented for 2010-2014 under the ASEAN-SEAFDEC Strategic Partnership (ASSP) and Fisheries Consultative Group FCG) programs funded by GOJ Trust Fund.

AQD Deputy Chief and GOJ-TF manager Dr. Teruo Azuma noted that the our new projects are (1) resource enhancement of internationally threatened and over-exploited species in Southeast Asia through stock release; (2) accelerating information dissemination and capacity building in fish health management in Southeast Asia; (3) promotion of sustainable and region-oriented aquaculture practices; and (4) food safety of aquaculture products in Southeast Asia.

For resource enhancement, the focus will be on improving hatchery and nursery technologies for internationally threatened and over-exploited species so that there will be quality seedstock to release in selected areas.

For fish health, the focus will be rural communities or small-scale farms so on-farm health management will be developed.

For sustainable aquaculture, studies will focus more on selective breeding as this is a key factor in producing commodities with faster growth, better reproductive performance and higher disease resistance.

For food safety, AQD will work with its sister department in Singapore, the MFRD, to conduct studies on antibiotics and chemicals to ensure safe aquaculture products.

Six trainees complete pond/cage culture course

pond&cage culture trainees “I am really happy,” says Mr. Pelson Moses of the Federated States of Micronesia upon completing the March 8-25 training course on Cage/pond culture of selected aquaculture species at AQD. He was happy because of the knowledge imparted by the AQD mentors and the skills gained by him and his five co-trainees from China, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

The course included extensive lectures and practical sessions on biology and ecology of marine fish and crustaceans, feed processing, health management, value-addition business planning, pond preparation, cage design and construction.

On the other hand, Mr. Nasruddin Ali Alameen, the trainee from Saudi Arabia, noted that in his company, 75% of the hundreds of employees are Filipinos, of which 90% passed through or were trained by AQD. He said he intends to send more people from his company to be trained by AQD.

AQD welcomes interns from France and Hong Kong

Mr. FryMr. Antoine Fry is a 23-year old French national learning about socioeconomics and the role of aquaculture in communities. He arrived 22 February 2010 and will be at AQD until August 2010. His internship at AQD is part of his political science thesis at the Institute of Political Science of Grenoble (St. Martin d’Heres, southern France).

Ms. Fong Mr. PunMs. Fong Yin Shan and Mr. Pun Sin Fat attended a specialized training course on Detection of viral diseases of fish and crustaceans last February 22-26 at AQD’s Tigbauan Main Station in Iloilo, Philippines. Both are from Hong Kong SAR, working as fisheries technical officer and laboratory technician, respectively.

Meanwhile, twelve 6th year students from Aklan State University (Philippines) underwent a Hands-on training in fish diseases last February 8-19. The clinical internship included bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal diseases and is part of the students’ requirements to obtain the degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

 ASU veterinary students

ASU veterinary students with their AQD fish health mentors

AQD co-sponsors Philippine shrimp congress

AQD co-sponsors shrimp congressAddressing the issue of diseases was the main focus of the 7th Philippine shrimp congress held March 17-19 at the Planta Hotel, Bacolod City. The congress was organized by PHILSHRIMP in cooperation with AQD, DA-BFAR and DOST.

Foreign and local experts who spoke during the congress have agreed that, to improve the quality of indigenous shrimp species, breeding programs must be supported to come up with highly disease-resistant seedstock. Upgrading of laboratory facilities used in screening emerging viruses and microbes can also help prevent the spread of diseases because of early detection. For growers, it would help if organic farming methods are developed.

AQD Scientist Dr. Emilia Quinitio presented the updates of AQD’s research on crustaceans. Five more senior staff attended while other AQD staff served on the congress secretariat. AQD also put up an exhibit booth.

AQD attends expert meetings in the US and Vietnam

Six AQD scientists participated in the World aquaculture conference 2010 held March 1-5 in San Diego, California, USA. The said conference was organized by a consortium headed by the World Aquaculture Society.

The papers presented by AQD include: (1) “Review of shellish R&D at SEAFDEC/AQD” by AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo; (2) “Influence of net mesh size on the performance of the giant freshwater prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii cultured in lake-based cages” by scientist Dr. Ma. Lourdes Aralar; (3) “Effect of different feeding management schemes on the aquaculture production of Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus in Lake Bato, Camarines Sur, Philippines” also by Dr. Aralar; and (4) “Protective immunity against viral nervous necrosis in brown-marbled grouper Epinephelus fuscoguttatus following vaccination with an inactivated betanodavirus” by scientist Dr. Rolando Pakingking.

Also present in the conference were RD Head Dr. Evelyn Grace de Jesus-Ayson, scientist Dr. Relicardo Coloso, and BFS Head Engr. Emiliano Aralar.

Prior to attending WAS, Dr. Coloso presented a paper on “Soy diet research for milkfish” during the Global soy in aquaculture planning meeting that was organized by the U.S. Soybean Export Council and the American Soybean Association International Marketing. The meeting was held February 27-28 at the same WAS venue. His trip was funded by the United Soybean Board.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mae Catacutan, AQD’s Nutrition and Feed Development Section head, attended the 9th Practical course on aquaculture feed extrusion, nutrition and feed formulation that was held January 25-26 at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Almost 100 participants came, mostly from Thailand. They listened to 30 topics that focused on feed ingredients, feed formulation, feed manufacturing technology, aquatic feed extrusion, plant design and quality assurance. She also noted that one of the speakers from Europe had cited two papers by AQD.

In addition, AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo attended the Business summit of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) held January 19-20 in Makati City. This was organized by the World Wildlife Fund in collaboration with DA and DENR with the aim of stimulating investment by public and private partnerships and securing sustainability and profitability of key sectors dependent on healthy marine resources in the coral triangle. Gracing the event was Philippine President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo.

AQD gets visitors from Japan and Papua New Guinea

L-R: Dr. Morioka, AQD Chief Dr. JD Toledo, Dr. Hanamura and Dr. Satoshi Watanabe AQD got visited by three Japanese experts who generously gave research seminars to AQD staff. Dr. Shinsuke  Morioka of JIRCAS presented on February 9 the Importance of swampy-plane small fishes: A case study on fundamental biology of two short-lived species, Brachygobius mekongensis and Parambassis siamensis.

Dr. Yukio Hanamura, also of JIRCAS, tackled on February 9 the Biological and ecological characteristics of hyperbenthic crustaceans in mangrove estuaries: perspective from studies in Malaysia.

Dr. KodamaDr. Masashi Kodama of the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science (Japan) presented on March 9 his study on  Production and decomposition characteristics of particulate organic matter (POM) and its implications for hypoxia in the eutrophicated enclosed estuary, a case study of Ariake Bay, Japan.

In a related matter, seven directors of Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority visited AQD on February 26. These included Mr. Tau Vali, Mr. Bede Tomorita, Mr. Michael Wau, Mr. Paul Nivori, Mr. Kawoi Songoro, Mr. Paul Martin and Mr. Jerome Tioti. They met with AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo with whom they discussed possible collaborative activities involving tilapia, catfish, sandfish and abalone.

Papua New Guinean guests

New flyers and videos

Seed Production of Tilapia  Seed production of tilapiadescribes the hatchery and nursery techniques for Oreochromis niloticus in net cages




Grow-out production of Tilapia

Grow-out production of tilapia – includes the technology profile and grow-out culture of O. niloticus in ponds




Seed Production of Asian catfish

Seed production of the Asian catfishcontains technology profile, catfish spawning and larval rearing techniques of Clarias macrocephalus





Grow-out Production of Asian catfish

Grow-out production of Asian catfish – contains technology profile, site selection and grow-out culture in ponds of C. macrocephalus





Igang Marine Station – shows the facilities and activities at AQD’s station in Guimaras

Dumangas Brackishwater Station – shows the facilities and projects of AQD’s station in Iloilo