In Dagupan City, it’s oysters’ turn in limelight
DAGUPAN CITY—Now it’s Dagupan’s oysters’ turn to take the limelight.
After clearing this city’s rivers of fish pens, farmers have begun culturing oysters again, trying to revive a product once as famous as the Bonuan bangus (milkfish).
And the result has been very encouraging so far, said Mayor Benjamin Lim.
“We were known for our succulent oysters, not only for our bangus. And I think we are having them back pretty soon,” said Lim after sampling an oyster from one of the growers during a river tour recently.
Oyster farms vanished when fish pens crowded the city’s rivers in the late 1980s. Since then, oysters sold along the main roads had come mostly from western coastal towns.
“Oysters grow best in free-flowing water. The fish pens slowed down water flow, aside from polluting our rivers, and thus killing the oyster industry,” Lim said.
In 2010, Lim ordered the dismantling of all fishing structures in the city’s rivers to allow the waterways to breathe. The famed Dagupan bangus are now grown in fish ponds scattered on the outskirts.
In November last year, when the oyster revival project was launched, the city government pioneered the commercial use of the “floating oyster clutch” method, an environment-friendly oyster-growing technology developed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. A hundred clutches were distributed to families displaced by the dismantling of the fish pens.
The new technology features a 6-by-6-meter bamboo raft kept afloat by four 200-liter capacity plastic drums. Some 1,300 rubber strips for collecting spats (oyster larvae) are hung at the bottom of the raft, which is moored to four corner anchors to hold it steady.
“We want our local growers to do it the right way for them to have good harvest and at the same time keep our rivers clean,” city agriculturist Emma Molina said.
The distribution of the clutches was timed for the oysters’ spatting season in November and December. These were deployed in the traditional oyster farm areas of Lucao and Tocok-Carael, west of this city.
“What really surprised us was that a lot of spats immediately clung to the rubber strips,” Molina said.
In the past, she said, the practice was for the oyster farmers to first bring the collectors to the waters surrounding the island village of Salapingao to collect spats and transfer them to Lucao.
“Now, they did not have to do this. So, the loss of spats which may fall off during the transfer is minimized because they do not have to pull the strips by boat. It also saved them money,” Molina said.
The spontaneous appearance of spats on site also proves that Lucao is a traditional oyster ground, she said. “Our next question was, how long will it take them to grow?” she said.
Normally, farmers have to rear the oysters for four months before harvesting and selling them.
“After two months, we took samples and we found that they were already 2.5 inches long, an inch shorter than the western Pangasinan oysters, which were grown for four months,” she said.
Even with this size, she said, a farmer could already harvest and sell at P150 per half-sack. These are harvested from four hangings. With 1,300 hangings, a farmer can earn at least P50,000 per harvest.
Lim said farmers could earn more, if it would eventually be proven that Dagupan is producing special oysters.
“But more than this, the revival of our oyster industry will help clean our rivers. In science, we are told that a small oyster can clean 50 gallons of water every day. So if you have millions of oysters in our river system, this simply means our water quality will improve every day,” he said.
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