Water pollution, ice-ice rough up
Ice-ice disease and epiphytes infestation swamped the coasts of the Zamboanga peninsula cutting down seaweed production drastically in recent months, local officials reported.
Latest statistics show that Zamboanga City suffered the stiffest decline in aquaculture production with negative growth of 42.8 percent as a result of the ailing seaweed sector. The twin aberrations dropped the annual seaweed yield by 22 percent, the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development reported.
Ice-ice is caused by low salinity, change in water temperature, and light intensity. When the seaweed is under stress, it emits a moist organic substance that attracts bacteria in the water and induces the "whitening" and hardening of the seaweed branches, PCAMRD experts explained.
Meanwhile, water epiphytes (Lyngbya majuscula), are non-parasitic small hairy algae that attach themselves on the host plants. Epiphytes growing on seaweed cover the photosynthetic parts of the plant inhibiting sunlight that in turn cut the plant's food making capabilities. Growth of epiphyte-infested seaweed is reduced and branches are stunted.
At least 10 hectares of seaweed farms in Sinunuc-Caragasan area in Zamboanga City are infested with epiphytes, the report added.
The alarming incidents prompted the Zamboanga City government to introduce projects to improve the quality of seaweed seedstocks and control the damage wreaked by ice-ice and epiphytes.
The establishment of satellite seedling banks of certified seaweed seed stock cultivars in major seaweed producing areas in the country is one of the main projects drawn. Two of these banks are in Arena Blanco and Caragasan in Zamboanga City. PCAMRD coordinates the project.
PCAMRD deputy executive director Cesar Pagdilao disclosed during the technology transfer roadshow in Region 9 that a total of 17 different cultivars of Kappaphycus and Eucheuma species are now grown in the seedling banks. Quality seed stocks produced from the seedling banks are sold to local seaweed farmers at a low price.
Dr. Pagdilao added that epiphytes infestations could be minimized if seaweed farmers would turn to "deep sea farming", or to areas at least 10-15 km away from the shore. Epiphytes will be disrupted from attaching to seaweed at such distance. But deep-sea farming requires sturdier materials that are expensive and hard to procure.
PCAMRD also leads another four-year government project funded by United Nations Development Programme to identify fast growing and disease resistant cultivars through strain selection. Three seedling banks established under the project store seed stocks of 15 cultivars of Kappaphycus and Eucheuma.
The seaweed industry contributed 68% or 652,680 metric tons of the country's total aquaculture production of 959,484 MT. The three seaweed cultivars widely farmed in southern Philippines are Kappaphycus, Eucheuma, and Gracilaria.
Kappaphycus accounts for 80% of the Philippine seaweed export and is used for making foods like ice cream, ham, sausage, chocolate drinks, and non-food products like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.