The legacy of SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department

by Dr. Joebert D. Toledo
jdtoledo@seafdec.org.ph

As SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department celebrates 35 years of research, technology demonstration, training and information dissemination, AQD Chief Dr. Joebert Toledo paid tribute to the past & present AQD staff, past AQD Chiefs, the Government of the Philippines (Department of Agriculture, DA-Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources, Department of Foreign Affairs, and Department of Budget & Management), the Government of Japan, and past & present funding & collaborative partners.

Dr. Toledo said that because of these men and women working on and supporting responsible aquaculture, AQD was able to leave behind the following legacy to the aquaculture industry:

The legacy of tiger shrimp and milkfish, the two pioneering commodities in aquaculture. AQD practically built the tiger shrimp industry which became a sunshine industry in the ’70s and ’80s. AQD aided its partial recovery in the mid-’90s when the mangrove-friendly shrimp culture technologies were developed and tested in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

With milkfish, AQD began a national breeding program with the Department of Agriculture in 1981, and is now supporting 16 hatcheries that have recently mushroomed as backyard operations. These hatcheries are the answer to the fry shortage outcry a few years back, and are indispensible to the growing milkfish sea cage industry today.

The legacy of diversified aquaculture. AQD no longer limited itself to tiger shrimp and milkfish. It has diversified as the aquaculture industry has diversified. Through scientific research, new technologies on hatchery and grow-out were developed for abalone, mudcrab, freshwater prawn, bighead carp, tilapia, grouper, snapper, seabass, rabbitfish, and seaweeds. The offering of a wide range of commodities is because sites can be very specific. One technology or commodity will not work for all sites. Conditions may be different, people’s skills may be different, or the market demand may be different. But AQD is prepared to make its aquaculture technologies suitable to investors, small-scale, medium-scale, or big-scale; in freshwater, brackishwater, or in marine waters.

The legacy of scientific research. AQD technologies are backed by scientific research, by peer-reviewed papers in science journals. There are more papers published for mature technologies. Milkfish for instance has 160 papers in science journals, with the first paper published in 1976 and the latest in 2006. Mudcrab, an emerging technology, has 40 journal papers, most of which were published after 2000.

It is not just the numbers, with AQD having nearly 900 research papers published. It is also the quality, with more than 100 of these papers having been cited for best research.

The legacy of skilled manpower or skilled womanpower for Southeast Asia. Since AQD started offering its first training course on brackishwater aquaculture in 1975, it has trained more than 7,000 people from more than 20 countries in 68 kinds of training course topics. Most trainees have gone on to positions of responsibility in their home countries, and they represent their respective countries in SEAFDEC-hosted regional meetings and consultations. They attribute their aquaculture skills to AQD.

The legacy of fishfarmer-friendly materials, of information dissemination to support technology transfer efforts. AQD endeavors not to cater to the scientific community alone. It does not want to be considered an ivory tower of purely intellectual wisdom. AQD hence labors to write and publish how-to manuals and books that fishfarmers and other stakeholders can use as field references. Over 35 years, there have been over 200 farmer-friendly publications, at least 700 newsletters, and 32 videos. All of AQD’s recent materials are also available through the website http://www.seafdec.org.ph/, including the library collection which is reputed to be the best collection of aquaculture materials in Southeast Asia.

The legacy of responsible aquaculture and fisheries. The SEAFDEC family, including the four Departments in the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, has regionalized the Codes of Conduct for: aquaculture & mangrove ecosystems, fishing operations, fisheries management & co-management, and postharvest & trade. SEAFDEC endeavors to have these adopted by stakeholders of the aquaculture and fisheries industries, and turned into law by SEAFDEC member-countries. Meanwhile, AQD’s own aquatic ecology program has been up and running since 2006.

Dr. Toledo articulated two more legacies that he wants his generation of AQD researchers to leave in the future. The first is the legacy of a systematic and institutionalized technology transfer mechanism backed by scientific research. He said he aims for substantive results of AQD’s two new technology demonstration programs. The first program is for people’s cooperatives, their local government units, and NGO partners under the ICD-SA program or the Institutional capacity development for sustainable aquaculture program. The second program is for entrepreneurs under an ABOT Negosyo or Agree-build-operate-transfer Aquabusiness. The technical assistance provided is from project planning to actual operation up to project evaluation. For the ABOT, the SEAFDEC Secretary-General Dr. Siri Ekmarahaj has given the green light for AQD to expand it to all the member-countries of SEAFDEC.

The second is the legacy of publishing research findings in science journals as the prime movers for technology development and innovation. This ensures that AQD’s research will continue to be available to SEAFDEC member-countries in perpetuity.