Researchers at the Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography (MSU-TCTO) are now producing cultivars or cultured varieties of seaweeds in a laboratory, which can help create a stock of high-quality planting materials for seaweed farmers in Panglima Sugala municipality in Tawi-Tawi.
Tawi-Tawi is the country’s major seaweed producer, contributing around 85 percent of the total seaweed export of the Philippines and providing livelihoods to 5,200 households in the province. However, value chain analyses have shown that local production is declining at an annual rate of 5 percent, whereas other provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have recorded increasing production rates. Low-quality seedling materials stunt growth rates and produce seaweeds with low biomass and low-quality carrageenan—an extract used widely in the food industry for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties.
In response to this decline, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources under BARMM selected MSU-TCTO to serve as the regional seaweed center and to lead the research and development of technologies to support the local seaweed industry. The university aims to improve the cultural practices of farming seaweeds, develop high-quality seedling materials, and serve as a leading expert to guide seaweed farmers in the region.
USAID, through its Protect Wildlife project, is funding the university’s research on producing cultivars. It is one form of concrete implementation of the agency’s strategic broad strokes of supporting economically viable livelihoods for local fisherfolk to dissuade them from unsustainable and destructive practices in fishing and harvesting marine resources. (PWP/ Meg Yandoc)