Thousands of aquaculture operators are engaged in this industry ranging from small-scale family enterprises to large corporations. The smaller producers are responsible for the majority of the country’s production but they only produce milkfish for the domestic market since their traceability and quality standards are not sufficient.
In most cases farmers acquire small fry (1 to 2 cm) from Alsons Corporation or one of the smaller hatcheries that are based throughout the country. These fry are first grown in smaller nursery ponds to ensure a high survival during the sensitive juvenile stage. The nursery fish receive daily care and high protein feeds are used to boost their growth. After 30 to 45 days the fish are large and strong enough to be transferred to the big grow-out ponds.
Weekly care consists of promoting algae growth in the ponds by using chemical fertilizers and using pellet feeds as main feed 3 to 4 times a week. If needed, partial water exchanges are made using tidal currents. In most cases no active aeration systems are used. Depending on the targeted harvesting size and the amount of feed used, the fish remain in the grow-out ponds for between 4 to 6 months.
Cage farmers use a similar system for the nursery stage after which the fingerlings are transferred to floating cages at a density of 40 – 50 fingerlings per m2. Since natural algae are not available at sufficient densities in marine waters, more feed is needed during production resulting in a higher FCR. The duration of the grow-out period and harvesting sizes are similar to those in intensive pond farming systems. In both situations, hatchery production, stocking and harvesting take place all year round.