From left to to right: (L-R) Dennis Omengkar (president MMA), interns Mr. Davis and Mr. Hsu, Sharp Sakuma (MMA coordinator), BMR Dir. Remengesau, AP expert Jack Lin, Artie Tellei.

The Bureau of Marine Resources-Republic of China (Taiwan) Aquaculture Project (BMR-ROC AP) distributed 2,000 ‘meyas’ fries to the Mesikt Marina Aquaculture (MMA) fish farm in Melekeok State on July 12, 2019 as part of the initiative to strengthen efforts to establish the rabbit fish farming industry.

This was the third time BMR and the Aquaculture Project has distributed fries to the MMA and the delivery last week brought the Melekeok aqua farmers’ total stock of fries to over 5000. They now have 2000 ‘meyas’ and over 3000 ‘kelsebuul’ to rear with a target harvest projected for early next year.

The process was inspected by BMR Director Leon Remengesau and completed by AP experts Jack Lin and Cheng Min Ying along with two aquaculture interns from the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) Mr. Davis and Mr. Hsu. The two interns are on a goodwill exchange between the BMR and the well-known Taiwan school.

Monitoring conducted by the AP experts over the last year and half has indicated to the BMR that most of the participants in the rabbit fish pilot program need vigorous management support. “The bottom line is that each farmer must be diligent in his efforts to rear the rabbit fish. Same like any farmer tending to his crop in the field,” stated the BMR Director to MMA president Dennis Omengkar, coordinator Sharp Sakuma and member Artie Tellei. Some farmers, as he noted, have been a little laidback or slack in their dedication and evidently, not going out to feed their fingerlings as often as they should.

“The BMR is providing the utmost support to the pilot project farmers. We have constructed their fish cages, with some components that have to be obtained off-island, and deployed them without charge. We have given them the stock, the fries and the feed supply for free,” he said. To the farmers who have harvested once, he has waived the fee to purchase the second and subsequent batches of 2000 fries, the amount composing one distribution allocation for one fish cage. “What was supposed to be a small recovery fee for the hatchery has also been waived and not applied, even as the farmers sold their harvest and came back for more,” he remarked.

To further motivate the fledgling farmer and strengthen the effort to rear for a satisfying fish size at harvest, the BMR is subsidizing one third of the price of feed starting now and into next year. “We normally charge $32 for a sack because the good quality feed is being imported from Taiwan and the AP project was insisting on the $32 per sack since we had to recover the costs and create a replenishment fund as soon as possible. The fund is now sustainable and revolving but the $32 remains an everyday challenge for the farmer still to see his harvest and income 10 to 12 months down the road. BMR, using project funding from its development partner TNC, has decided to cover $10 for each sack to the AP Project so now the farmer will only have to pay $22 per sack to feed his fries,” the Director revealed.

The BMR and its aquaculture development partner, known as the R.O.C. Aquaculture Project (AP), are hoping that their reinvigorated monitoring and outreach support, including the significant feed subsidy, can have a positive effect on the pioneering group of local rabbit fish farmers.

The Bureau oversight of collaborative activities including broodstock collection and infrastructure support of hatchery and utilities during the transition of the Taiwanese AP experts during the past ten months has seen the stabilization of fries seed production and the BMR is indeed glad to report that the supply of fries has been improving up to the point that, currently, available distribution is slightly ahead of the demand of farmers for restocking.

“I am also pleased to inform the community and our constituents that the BMR has begun the construction project to expand the production output of the rabbit fish hatchery. After two years of negotiation with the AP, funding has been approved and we have cleared the space where the old office of the Bureau of Agriculture used to be and will be constructing two large commercial scale rearing tanks for rabbit fish larvae. Basically, this infrastructure development will give us the capacity to propagate a much larger quantity of fries, way more than at present, approaching an annual production of 100,000 fries for distribution. This should be enough to establish and support a flourishing local industry in the future,” Remengesau added.

The BMR Director also announced that they are in the process of procuring the final materials to start constructing the fish cages for Ngchesar State and probably will commence, in a fortnight, the first phase of fish cage construction which is creating the concrete anchors of the floating cage platform. After Ngchesar, the Director indicated that the next state to have their rabbit fish project will be Peleliu. The rabbit fish floating cage deployment program had been delayed, he says, by the new PMDC giant clam seed propagation activities and the conduct of the nationwide trochus survey right after that. “It’s good to have twenty men, but I only have a handful of PMDC technicians available as the core of BMR manpower”, concluded Director Remengesau. (PR)