The local government of Narra municipality in Palawan is excited about the USAID-backed research project in their town that seeks to promote sandfish (Holothuria scabra)—a variety of sea cucumber—as a profitable source of livelihood for communities.
Narra Mayor Lucena Demaala expressed her appreciation to USAID, Western Philippines University, and other partners for choosing their municipality as the pilot site for the research project. She noted how this project could benefit local residents, particularly low-income fisherfolk, farmers, and even indigenous communities. Other officials and community leaders from Narra also expressed their support in ensuring the success of the project.
The sea ranching research aims to observe and study the growth and survival of young sandfish, which are spawned in an aquaculture facility using broodstock collected from mainland Palawan. Sandfish juveniles are transported and released inside floating hapa nets off the coast of Rasa Island—a priority conservation area for USAID’s Protect Wildlife project—and Caguisan village, both in Narra. The young sandfish are raised inside the nets and monitored for two months before they are transferred to nursery sea pens and released into sea ranching sites.
The success of this research activity will help local partners chart a sustainable and science-based path to developing a local industry for sandfish, which fetches a high price in Asian markets. Aside from providing an alternative to unsustainable and destructive fishing practices, sea ranching can also restock declining sandfish population in their natural environment. (PWP/ Lawrence San Diego)