Semi-intensive pond

Semi-intensive pond farming is the most common culture system for export oriented milkfish production and is responsible for approximately 70% of the exported milkfish volume. Nevertheless, the number of suitable locations for fishponds is limited, making it hard for this subsector to further expand its production capacity. In addition, the national government has banned the development of new fish ponds. Most of the production takes place in coastal regions spread around the country. It is unclear how many fish ponds are used for farming of milkfish in the Philippines, but a very rough estimate would be that approximately 100,000 hectare of fishponds are used for milkfish production.

Key features
Average stocking density

50,000 – 100,000 fry/ha

Average productivity

3 -5 tonnes/ha/year

# of crops per year

No clear distinction between crops

# of days per crop

120 – 180 days

Harvesting season

All year round

Type of farmer

Small-scale farms and corporate farms

Potential risks
  • Pond farms without filter systems can cause pollution of coastal waters

Type of farmers

Most farmers operate one or two ponds as a family business and these farmers tend to be not very well organized. Export oriented businesses operate large amounts of ponds, ranging from 50 to a few a few hundred hectares.

Production and harvesting system

Farmers practice monoculture of milkfish in semi-intensive ponds and use a partial water exchange system using tidal rhythms. Average pond size is around 2,000 m2 for nursery ponds and 4 hectare for grow out ponds. Ponds are typically made by raising earthen walls in low-laying coastal areas (former mangrove areas) after which the soil and walls are pounded to ensure the structure becomes watertight. Pond operators in the Philippines do not use any synthetic liners.

In all provinces milkfish harvest takes place all year round. Typically fish are harvested at 250 – 300 grams which takes 3 to 4 months but some farmers grow the fish to bigger sizes. The fish are typically harvested all at once using a net when the ponds is drained. Survival rates lie between 80-90%.

Stocking densities and productivity

In all provinces, milkfish are stocked year round with the exception of the first few weeks of the rainy season. On average 50,000 to 100,000 fingerlings per hectare are stocked for deeper ponds but this is highly dependent on the depth of the pond. Some farms stock fry directly while others first grow the fish in smaller nursery ponds resulting in different stocking densities. Additionally, planned harvesting sizes also influences stocking density; if one wants to grower bigger fish the stocking density must be reduced.

Productivity ranges from 3 to 15 tonnes per hectare per year depending on the culture system at the farm. Modular pond systems with separate nursery ponds tend to result in higher yields since crops are rotated more quickly in the grow-out ponds.

Use of seed, feed and other inputs

Fingerlings can be sourced from the wild or they are produced by hatcheries. Additionally a large number of fry are imported from Indonesia and Taiwan. 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. Most farmers use smaller ponds of 2,000 mto nurse the the fish for a period of 30 – 45 days. Most operators using semi-intensive pond systems use a combination of algae and commercial pellet feeds. Because milkfish are herbivorous and are feeding on natural algae in the ponds the FCR is often lower than 1. Chemical fertilizers are used by most farmers to promote algae blooms. Very few other chemicals are used as milkfish are known to be very disease resistant.