Oyster industry expands on Cagayan coast

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OYSTER farming in Cagayan is expanding thanks to the efforts of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which is working to establish more than 600 oyster raft livelihood projects in the province this year to supplement the income of local fishermen, the bureau said in an interview with The Manila Times last week.

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Oysters from the province are becoming bigger and bigger in size, described by Cagayan fisherfolk as too large to “fit into the mouth of a regular gin bottle,” encouraging the BFAR to work to boost the local industry. Oysters used to be found only in the coastal town of Buguey, which has long been known for seafood such as crab and seaweed.

From Buguey, the culture of oyster (Crassostrea iredalie) has spread to neighboring town of Santa Teresita and Gonzaga as well as in the eastern coastal towns of Sanchez Mira, Claveria and Pamplona.

Director Milagros Morales of the BFAR in Region 2 said Cagayan’s fishermen who used to rely only on their income from fishing are benefiting from the bureau’s oyster projects, enjoying a boost to their regular income.

“Oyster is a low-cost but highly lucrative project that our fisherfolk can engage into. It is low cost as it requires no artificial feeds, at all,” Morales said.

So far this year, Morales said the BFAR has established 75 units oyster rafts in Santa Teresita town alongside several fish cage and other demo livelihood units.

She said the bureau is planning the establishment of 629 oyster raft livelihood projects this year, to be distributed to fisherfolk in more Cagayan Valley coastal to wns.

“The yearly establishment of the bureau’s oyster rafts in Santa Teresita started in 2010 and since then the project enabled the oysters to adapt and multiply in the area,” aquatic technician Artemio Unipa explained.

Unipa said that on average, each raft can produce 15 to 20 glasses of oyster, which their beneficiaries sell at P15 to P20 each.

“Selling is never a problem as apart from local demand, the fisherfolk sell their harvest to a fish dealer who distributes their produce in other towns,” Unipa added.

“We used to have oysters here, but these were of the ‘native’ kind, which are not much bigger than one centimeter across,” Nelyn Bitun and and Eddie Villana, recipients of oyster rafts, said.

They said now the oysters are so big that they cannot fit into the mouth of a gin bottle. “We harvest oyster at least once a week or every other day during lean fishing season.”

In March, the local government unit of Santa Teresita and the Santa Teresita National High School has held an oyster cooking contest in recognition of the abundance of oyster in the area.

“We would like to further promote the species and we were so amazed as we came to know various recipes that can be made out of oysters,” Unipa said.

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