Connect with us

Destinations

In the midst of the giant groupers

First mastered by the Taiwanese in the 1970s, full-cycle or closed loop mariculture entails breeding and rearing fish in complete captivity and is meant to eliminate the need to draw from wild stocks. Hardier but lower-value species such as green grouper and tiger grouper have been successfully bred and reared in captivity since the year 2000. Few have met success with finicky leopard coral trout, but the Palawan Aquaculture Corporation claims to have successfully bred them – a vital first step for the road to full-cycle mariculture.

Published

on

By Gregg Yan, WWF

A typical grow-out facility in Southern Palawan. Operators must feed and protect the fish, which are held in submerged cages beneath and around the central hut for around 10 months. There is no electricity. Food and water are supplied exclusively by boat (Gregg Yan/WWF)

A typical grow-out facility in Southern Palawan. Operators must feed and protect the fish, which are held in submerged cages beneath and around the central hut for around 10 months. There is no electricity. Food and water are supplied exclusively by boat (Gregg Yan/WWF)

“Don’t fall into that fish pen,” warns Daryl Dandal, an offshore cage warden. “It has two giant groupers. Both are larger than you.”

I nod and tiptoe through a network of planks above the glittering waters of Taytay in Palawan, Philippines. Here lie about 2,000 fish cages, where various species of grouper are grown to feed a ballooning export trade. For the Philippines, this is the center of the LRFFT: the live reef food fish trade.

What began in the 1980s as an experiment in Samar now employs over 100,000 people in Palawan alone. Palawan’s annual grouper exports exceed P1.7 billion – but the fish are slowly disappearing.

LEOPARD CORAL TROUT

Chinese restaurants usually have a bubbling tank of grouper. Locally called lapu-lapu, señorita or suno, the lethargic predators are among Asia’s most sought-after reef fish, prized for taste and texture. Across the Philippines, millions of juveniles are caught before they reproduce, raising serious concerns about the LRFFT’s sustainability.

Although there are 161 grouper species, the apple of traders’ eyes is the leopard coral trout, an orange fish that fetches up to P7,200 per kilogram in Hong Kong and P13,500 per kilogram in China.

“When the trade started in the 1980s, most wild-caught groupers were market-sized, each around a foot long,” recounts Dr. Geoffrey Muldoon, WWF’s LRFFT strategy leader. “After 30 years, most of the large ones have been fished out. Today just one in five wild-caught groupers is market-sized. Since there aren’t enough adults to go around, the trade turned to grouper ranching, a system where juveniles are caught and grown in guarded offshore cages.”

Within submerged cages and pens, groupers must endure temperature fluctuations, overcrowding and diseases. Many die in the process. Those that survive around 10 months in captivity are sold as market-sized fish – each around a foot long and weighing from 500 to 700 grams. At this stage in the supply chain, a single suno, as the leopard coral trout is locally known, retails for about P2,500.

It’s a lucrative livelihood. Fishers earn up to 50 times more selling a kilogram of suno than other types of fish. Federico and Nida Ellut from northern Palawan sent their three children to school from their income as grouper collectors.

“From a simple straw hut, we now have a two-bedroom concrete home. We’re saving to buy our third boat,” says Nida.

Money talks – but extraction has hidden costs.

STOCKS DEPLETED?

The current system of LRFFT collection is untenable: WWF surveys have shown that over half the groupers taken from Palawan’s reefs are juveniles, a clear sign of dangerous stock depletion.

“Overharvesting has been a huge problem. Fishers were catching five times more than what could be sustained. Spawning aggregations were targeted, depleting brood-stock. Fortunately local governments and fishing communities have embraced conservation efforts,” says WWF-Philippines project manager Mavic Matillano.

WWF is now leading efforts to facilitate the recovery of suno stocks by establishing marine protected areas, plus enhanced enforcement, licensing and education. Alternative solutions may also exist.

“Given the fishery’s dependence on wild juveniles, a way forward is through full-cycle mariculture, potentially freeing suppliers from having to catch wild fish,” explains Muldoon.

First mastered by the Taiwanese in the 1970s, full-cycle or closed loop mariculture entails breeding and rearing fish in complete captivity and is meant to eliminate the need to draw from wild stocks. Hardier but lower-value species such as green grouper and tiger grouper have been successfully bred and reared in captivity since the year 2000. Few have met success with finicky leopard coral trout, but the Palawan Aquaculture Corporation claims to have successfully bred them – a vital first step for the road to full-cycle mariculture.

Farmed suno might soon be a commercial reality, but the clock is ticking.

“Just a few years ago, the panther grouper was at the top of the LRFFT heap,” says Matillano. “It was caught and exported by the millions, but stocks crashed and the government imposed a total ban on the panther grouper. The suno was next in line, becoming LRFFT’s top-traded fish.”

* * *

As I jump and dive around the floating leopard farms of Taytay, I notice how leopard coral trout comprise just half the fish in the cages. Whereas a few years ago cages would brim with bright red suno, each fish cage now hosts an eclectic blend of strawberry, saddle, harlequin and other types of grouper – now pressed into the trade to take the declining suno’s place.

I ponder how long before the suno population crashes. If and when it does, the market will likely move on to other fish, continuing the pattern of over-consumption. It’s clear that full-cycle mariculture of suno and other grouper species is the LRFFT’s best way forward.

Floating offshore cages house dozens of juvenile groupers in the municipality of Taytay in Northern Palawan (Jun Lao)

Floating offshore cages house dozens of juvenile groupers in the municipality of Taytay in Northern Palawan (Jun Lao)

Cherished in China for their ‘lucky’ red color, leopard coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus) await their fate inside a floating cage in Palawan. Some die of stress and disease – but enough survive to make the trade lucrative. Gregg Yan/WWF)

Cherished in China for their ‘lucky’ red color, leopard coral trout (Plectropomus leopardus) await their fate inside a floating cage in Palawan. Some die of stress and disease – but enough survive to make the trade lucrative. Gregg Yan/WWF)

Believing that everyone's perspective is important, Zest Magazine has opted to provide an avenue for these perspectives to be known. care to hear the publication's contributing writers; or better yet, do some contributing yourself by contacting info@zestmag.com.

Travel

Airbnb data shows how tourism has dispersed post-pandemic

In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

Published

on

As the travel rebound continues to unfold, the benefits of tourism are spreading across the Asia Pacific. In Southeast Asia, new analysis by Airbnb reveals that the resurgence in domestic and inbound tourism is empowering locals to earn a living and make ends meet.

With people continuing to embrace flexible new approaches to travel and living, communities that have traditionally missed out in the past are increasingly well-positioned to secure a bigger slice of the tourism pie, according to new Airbnb report Further Afield: Spreading the Benefits of the Travel Revolution’. Across the region, this has presented fresh opportunities for locals looking to supplement their income as they grapple with rising costs of living.

Across the Asia Pacific, Airbnb nights booked in non-urban areas have increased in South Korea (up more than 180 percent ), India (up about 140 percent), and Australia (up about 60 percent) in Q2 2022 as compared to Q2 2019. In Southeast Asia, searches for stays in Siquijor in the Philippines surged by more than 280 percent while searches for Marang in Malaysia almost doubled.

The typical earnings for non-urban Hosts increased correspondingly in the same period for a number of destinations. In Australia and South Korea, typical host earnings have more than doubled as travel returned in full force. In the Philippines, almost half of local Airbnb hosts surveyed said their earnings have helped them navigate rising costs of living including housing, daily necessities, and home improvement needs.

Not only are travelers eyeing destinations off the beaten path, they’re also looking to stay longer. Notably,nights booked for long-term stays (stays longer than 28 days) in non-urban areas approximately doubled in popular travel and remote working hotspot Thailand in Q2 2022, up from Q2 2019 pre-pandemic.

In Southeast Asia, a number of destinations outside major metropolitan hubs were popular  among travelers on Airbnb for long-term stays in Q2 2022. Examples included:

  • Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang in the Philippines
  • Ipoh, Kuah, Semenyih, and Port Dickson in Malaysia
  • Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Lanta and Krabi in Thailand

Mich Goh, Airbnb’s Head of Public Policy for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said: “More than two years since the start of the pandemic, we continue to see fundamental shifts in travel that are creating new opportunities for off-the-beaten-track communities. It’s incredibly exciting to see travelers so enthusiastic about exploring new destinations, as well as the positive economic impact cascading to locals.

“The increasing popularity of Dapa, Panglao, Dumaguete and Silang reinforce the importance of the Department of Tourism’s plans to drive tourism development in the countryside and promote lesser-known destinations.  We are committed to continuing to work together with governments and stakeholders to keep inspiring travelers to step off the beaten path, and help ensure more communities can share in the benefits of tourism.”

In addition to encouraging travelers to explore further afield through innovative search tools such as Categories and I’m Flexible, Airbnb remains committed to partnering with governments and communities in Southeast Asia, including in the Philippines. The company has partnered with Thailand and Indonesia’s tourism authorities on a range of ‘Live and Work Anywhere’ initiatives to attract global digital nomads and remote workers, as part of broader efforts to drive inbound tourism as travel returns.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 about us and our industry that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this press release, including, but not limited to, statements regarding travel trends, the travel industry and the future of travel, the behavior of Hosts and guests and about our future performance, prospects, plans and objectives are forward-looking statements.

In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements because they contain words such as “may,” “will,” “plan,” “expect,” “could,” “potential,” “objective,” or “continues” or the negative of these words or other similar terms or expressions that concern our expectations. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this press release, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur at all.

Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions, and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from the objectives expressed or implied in this press release. Therefore, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the effects and duration of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic on us, the travel industry, travel trends, and the global economy generally; any further and continued decline or disruption in the travel and hospitality industries or economic downturn; changes in political, business, and economic conditions, including current geopolitical tensions and regional instability; and the other risks listed or described from time to time in Airbnb’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), including Airbnb’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021, Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2022 and subsequent Form 10-Qs and Form 8-Ks, which are, or will be, on file with the SEC and available on the investor relations page of Airbnb’s website.

All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release and are based on information and estimates available to us as of the date of this press release. We expressly disclaim any obligation to update or revise any information contained in this press release, except as required by law.

Continue Reading

Destinations

Exploring the largest cave system in the Philippines

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

Published

on

By Gregg Yan

The Philippines has over 3100 known caves. Featuring 12 chambers over its seven kilometer span, the Langun-Gobingob Cave in Samar is the king of them all. Discovered by Italian Guido Rossi in 1987, it was opened to the public in 1990.

We recently explored it to celebrate the Year of the Protected Areas or YOPA, which aims not just to convince people to conserve the country’s 246 protected areas, but to encourage them to visit the sites themselves.

Caves are underground chambers, usually situated in mountains, hills or cliffs. Generations of imaginative fear-mongers have made them the home of everything from treasure-hoarding dragons to a whip-wielding Balrog. In reality, caves are special ecosystems which need our protection, particularly from unscrupulous miners who would break apart tons of rock for a handful of precious stones.

Unique But Threatened Biodiversity

Samar Island, overshadowed by more popular places like Palawan and Boracay, isn’t usually considered a top tourist destination, owing to its long history as a hotbed for insurgencies and a punching bag for typhoons. Though the Philippines’ thirdlargest island exudes rugged beauty, its real value as an ecotourism destination lies beneath the earth.

“Samar is unique because it is a karst landscape made primarily of limestone. Millions of years of weathering has created numerous caves and sinkholes on the island,” explains Anson Tagtag, head of the Caves, Wetlands and Other Ecosystems Division of the DENR. “Caves are special ecosystems which harbor highly-evolved fauna, most of which have adapted to darkness.”

Birds, bats, spiders, snakes, crickets and even blind cave fish thrive inside the Langun-Gobingob Cave. The lack of light confines plants to entrances, but mushrooms and other types of fungi cling to life as discreet denizens of the dark.

“The speleothems or rocks in caves are in a very real sense ‘alive’ – they just grow and move at timescales difficult for people to comprehend,” explains Dr. Allan Gil Fernando, a professor at the National Institute of Geological Sciences in UP Diliman. “The constant dripping of water for instance leaves minute traces of minerals like calcite. Over time these traces pile up to form hanging stalactites and their inverted kin, stalagmites. It takes about a century for a stalactite or stalagmite to grow one inch.”

It is because of their surreal beauty that many caves are sundered.

“People used to enter the Langun-Gobingob Cave to break apart and mine stalagmites plus white calcite rocks for collectors,” says Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) Assistant Superintendent Eires Mate. Our guide Alvin confirms this. “Locals used to mine the cave for Taiwanese businessmen, who paid a paltry PHP7 for a kilogram of rock. Balinsasayao or swiftlet nests were plucked out too, to be shipped to Chinese markets.”

The cave was finally declared a protected area in 1997. “Thank God for legal protection. Mining was effectively stopped,” says Eires. The Langun-Gobingob Cave is just one of many natural systems benefiting from the country’s protected area system.

“Declaring key biodiversity sites as protected areas is one of the best ways to ensure that future generations can continue enjoying their beauty,” says United Nations Development Programme Biodiversity Finance Initiative (UNDP-BIOFIN) Manager Anabelle Plantilla. “Visitors should positively support local communities but be mindful of the environmental impacts of their travels. They should for instance, avoid taking wild plants or leaving trash in tourist sites.”

Year of the Protected Areas

Launched in May of 2022, YOPA hopes to generate funds from tourists to ensure the continued management of protected areas hard-hit by COVID-19 budget cuts.

The Langun-Gobingob Cave is part of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), one of YOPA’s six highlighted parks, the others being the Bongsanglay Natural Park in Masbate, Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro, Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental, Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, and Mt. Timpoong Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument in Camiguin.

The country’s caves are now open for tourism, but visitors should know what not to do inside them. “Cave tourism should be well managed and there are cave do’s and don’ts,” says Buddy Acenas from the GAIA Exploration Club, a Manila-based caving and exploration group. “A comprehensive assessment should be conducted before a cave is opened for tourism. Trained guides and set trails should be used to minimize human impacts. Like so many of our fragile wilderness areas, caves must be stewarded by those visiting them.”

For its part, the Philippine government is doing what it can to promote responsible tourism. “Our caves, mountains, beaches and other protected areas are now open for tourism. We invite both Filipinos and foreigners to come and visit, but to do so in an environmentally-responsible manner,” adds DENR-BMB Director Natividad Bernardino. “By practicing responsible and regenerative tourism in PAs, we’re helping our national parks flourish and recover from the economic blow they suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Continue Reading

Travel

3 Ways to travel during hurricane season like a pro

Typically, hurricane season is June through November. If you’re planning on traveling to a coastal region soon, Yonder Travel Insurance has created a list of three expert tips to help make it a bit easier.

Published

on

Photo by Thom Holmes from Unsplash.com

Weather is a factor most travelers take into consideration as they plan their trips. Although traveling during hurricane season shouldn’t make you rethink your plans, being informed before you depart is wise.

Typically, hurricane season is June through November. If you’re planning on traveling to a coastal region soon, Yonder Travel Insurance has created a list of three expert tips to help make it a bit easier.

Be Weather Aware

Staying on top of the weather radar can help you mitigate changes to your trip. An easy way to be alerted if there’s a hurricane brewing is to check the National Hurricane Center or enroll your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). That way, you’ll automatically be alerted about safety conditions and your family will be notified of your whereabouts if you get caught in a storm during your trip.

Buy Travel Insurance Early

Luckily, most travel insurance policies include coverage in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. The key here is to purchase travel insurance early before a storm arises.

“We recommend purchasing travel insurance after you’ve booked your trip. If you wait until the news brings up adverse weather and you decide to cancel your trip, it may not be covered under your policy,” says Terry Boynton, Co-Founder and President of Yonder. In addition to cancellation coverage, your baggage could be covered if it’s lost or damaged amongst the shuffle of delayed or canceled flights during your trip.

Pack & Plan Smart

Even if the forecast looks promising for the duration of your trip, packing a few emergency essentials and having an emergency departure plan in place shouldn’t be thrown out the window. Adding items like a mini-battery powered flashlight, a small first aid kit, a few granola bars, and extra cash won’t take up precious luggage space, but could be a life-saver in an emergency.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Like Us On Facebook

Facebook Pagelike Widget

Most Popular

Copyright ©FRINGE PUBLISHING. All rights reserved.