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Aqua assets under threat

RISING water temperatures as a result of climate change could threaten the country’s aquaculture industry and fish production in general, a scientist based in Iloilo province said on Friday.

“There is a threat to aquaculture production,” said Dr. Felix Ayson, the chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.

“And we are just looking at the temperature itself but we know that our oceans will become acidic as well. So we still have to factor that in,” he said during a press briefing here when asked about the impact of changing weather conditions on aquaculture.

Despite the gloomy picture that climate change will bring, Ayson said there are still ways to overcome these challenges.

Organisms can adapt to new temperatures but it will take time, he said, adding that the industry cannot afford to stop fish production to address the country’s food needs.

“If the organisms cannot adapt, we have to have some alternative,” Ayson said.

For instance, he said, if there is a spawning problem in bangus or milkfish due to higher water temperature, producers could put up a controlled facility just for the embryo, so that the bangus eggs could hatch.

But the implication is that it will raise the price of bangus as a result of additional inputs, Ayson said.

“We need to provide this data to our policymakers for them to plan. It is our role as a research organization to provide this scientific data to our policymakers,” he said.

Ayson reported that they did a 10-month study on a locally known fish specie called malaga, conducted under higher water temperature. This fish is also called samaral batuhan (scientific name Siganus corallinus).

He said they found that the malaga spawned at 33 degrees Celsius but it also had very weak embryos that would not survive. The embryos, which were supposed to hatch and become larvae after 24 hours, perished.

“If it won’t survive, we will have no fry and therefore no stocks for our ponds and cages,” he said, adding that after the study on the Malaga, they will conduct research studies on the bangus and other species because of their implication to the aquaculture industry.

Milkfish comes after seaweeds among the top aquaculture produce of the country, making it a very important part of the local food supply.

Scientists have predicted that global water temperatures will rise to 33 degrees to 34 degrees Celsius at the end of the century from the normal temperatures of 28 degrees to 30 degrees Celsius.

These changes in the climate will have a major impact on the Asia-Pacific region’s quest for food security and sustainability.

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