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Oyster Farming in the Philippines

Oyster farming in the Philippines began at Hinigaran, Negros Occidental, in 1921 and since then, it become the primary source of income for people living in the coastal waters of Hinigaran. The town is the biggest Oyster producer town in the country.

Magallana bilineata, commonly known as the Philippine cupped oyster or slipper oyster, is an economically important species of true oyster found abundantly in the western Pacific Ocean, from the Philippines to Tonga and Fiji.

In 2020 an exotic population was discovered in north-east Australia. They grow attached to hard objects in brackish shallow intertidal or subtidal waters, at depths of 0 to 300 meters (0 to 984 ft). They are cultured extensively in the Philippines, where annual landings can range from 11,700 to 18,300 tons. They are known as talaba or talabang tsinelas (“slipper oyster”) in Filipino to distinguish them from talabang kukong kabayo (“horse-hoof oyster”, Saccostrea malabonensis)

oyester farming
Oyster

Health Benefits of Oyster

Oysters are a rich source of vitamin D, copper, zinc, and manganese. These micronutrients, in combination with calcium, are thought to be key to slow or even preventing bone loss in older women due to osteoporosis. Additionally, dietary sources of these minerals are thought to be more effective than supplements.

Oyster Products

Although oysters are generally eaten fresh after being submerged in a hot water, oyster sauce is a major cooking ingredient made oysters. Oyster sauce is one of the most important condiments all over the world. Salted oysters are also available during oyster harvest season.

Oyster Farming in the Philippines

Oyster s a popular bivalve delicacy because of its excellent flavor and taste. It is mostly marketed in the shell as freshly-shucked meat. Some salted oysters or bagoong are made during peak harvest season. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates. 

The shells are mostly used as raw materials for the manufacture of lime and poultry grit. The shells also serve as spat collectors for culturing. The Mariculture of oysters has been expanding to other areas in the past years. 

There are about 5 sq/km used for oyster culture ranging from 1,500 m-5,000 sq m in about 1,300 farms. Oyster farms are located in 17 provinces comprising Regions I, IV, and VI. 

Major producers are Negros Occidental, Pangasinan, and Cavite (Oyster, Commodities Series, No. 64, TLRC 1988). There are little or no available records of oyster preparation exports and data on consumption. Oysters are mostly consumed near production areas. 

Farm Site Selection

Oysters thrive best in brackish to marine waters with salinity ranging from

15-26 ppt at 20-30ºC water temperature. Viable oyster farming grounds have indigenous species of spawners that are present. The water should be free from pollution with a green to blue-green color. The area should be free from flooding that may result in 0-10 ppt salinity; this causes heavy mortality and heavy siltation.

Water depth should be at least 1.5-4.0 m at the lowest tide. The bottom is either

hard non-shifting or soft and muddy. Areas for culture must be naturally protected against strong wind and wave action along landlocked bays or estuaries. Materials for structures should be readily available and cheap. 

Preferably, sites should be near markets or centers of the population within 100 km. The presence of endemic seeds or spats in the area is preferred, but seeding or transplanting of oysters may be undertaken.

Culture Aspects

There are four popular species of talaba for oyster farming.

  1. Crasostrea iredalei (Talabang tsinelas or slipper-shaped)
  2. Saccostrea malabonensis (Kukung kabayo or oblong)
  3. Palmipes (Pulid-pulid or palm-rooted)
  4. Cucullata (Kulot or wild oyster) The first two species are recommended for growing. 

Peak natural spatting season or spawning usually occurs from January to February and May to September. Fertilization of spawned oyster eggs takes place in the water. After hatching, a planktonic larva emerges and remains in the waters for two to three weeks before settling down. Spats or seeds about the size of sand grain attach to suitable substrates (like logs, stones, shells, bottoms, etc.).

The most suitable and commonly used spat collectors are empty oyster shells. After a growth period of one month, the juvenile oysters (young) will measure about 1.27 cm long. 

Oyster food consists of microorganisms, phytoplankton, and organic matter which they strain or filter out from the water with their gills. This explains why oysters thrive well in fertile waters. It normally matures after 6-10 months from seeding. The culture period should be started before the spatting season or spatfall. Juvenile oysters can be transplanted to other areas with no available spats.

Oyster Farming and Culture Methods

There are several methods of culture: stake (tulos), hanging (pabitin), long line (sampayan), or stone (paringit). However, the hanging method is recommended.

The hanging method is constructed by piling a 3.0 – 4.0 m bamboo post or 7.62 – 12.70 cm diameter wooden post at 4.0-meter distance between rows and 1.0 -1.5 m between rows. The rows should be 8 m long (the normal length of hard bamboo) and the number of rows should be ten per lot.  Inbetween rows are lanes of at least 2-3 m for the caretaker’s dugout wooden boat to pass. 

Bamboo pole platforms are tied to the post at about 0.50 m below zero tide level. Threaded empty oyster shells ranging from 12 -16 pieces at a distance of 7.62 -10.16 cm between shells or clutches serve as the spat collectors. Use No. 3 or 4 polyethylene ropes or plastic twines. The threaded clutches arc then hung all the bamboo pole platforms. Maintain, a 20.0 – 25.0 cm distance between substrates or clutches.

Maintaining the Structure

  1. Check the structure for damage and promptly replace damaged parts, where appropriate.
  2. Set the hanging oysters just below the normal low tide level.
  3. Remove sponges growing on the surface of the oysters. They impede the flow of water and food as well as compete for oxygen and food.
  4. It is desirable to construct a caretaker’s hut on the farm to deter potential poachers and facilitate the management of the farm. 

Harvesting

Not much care is needed in oyster farming, except by guarding it against poachers through frequent visits or by staying at the site two to three months before harvest. Harvesting is done by pulling the hanging clutch lines. 

Separate the bigger oysters for the market and leave the small ones at the bottom bamboo tray to grow further. Submerge and clean harvested oyster shells. Pack them in gunny sacks or bamboo baskets or kaing. The bamboo basket contains about 40 kg of fresh shell oysters. 

The marketable size is 6.0-12.50 cm long. Oysters are best harvested before the spatting season of March to May because they are fat and delicious during summer (dry months).

Production can reach 8 -12 metric tons per hectare. A family-sized growing area of 2,500 sq m is an ideal, livelihood project for beginners. In areas where there is an occurrence of red tide that causes poisoning to humans, harvesting should be suspended or stopped until the area is cleared or free from red tide organisms. 

Questions Related to Oyster Farming

Are oyster and Talaba the same?

Oyster (Talaba in Tagalog) has been a favorite of food lovers and romantics throughout the centuries and are served on many islands in the Philippines, especially in the Southern Part of Negros Occidental.

How do you steam Talaba?

  • Discard any broken shells or open (dead) oysters. Scrub remaining oysters in cold water, removing any barnacles with a dull paring knife.
  • Place half of the oysters in a steamer with boiling water. Cover
    and steam for 5 to 8 minutes, removing oysters as they open
  • Serve hot oysters in shells with butter.

Do oysters grow in the Philippines?

Four species of oysters are cultured in the Philippines, the slipper-shaped oyster Crassostrea iredalei, the subtrigonal oyster C. malabonensis and the curly or palm-rooted oysters C. palmipes and Saccostrea cucullata.

How profitable is oyster farming?

In the Philippines, oyster farming can generate a lot of income during its season. A kilogram of oyster costs P120 at farmgate as of 2020. With an average of 10 tons per hectare, it can generate P1.2 million in revenue, so yes, it is highly profitable.

How long do oysters take to farm?

The oyster life cycle very much dictates the growing schedule on a farm. Philippine oyster usually takes 6 to 10 months to reach market size.

Where are oysters found in the Philippines?

The Philippines is an archipelago that has numerous sites suitable for oyster farming. The cultivation of oysters in the country started in Bacoor Bay in Bacoor and Kawit towns in the province of Cavite in Luzon, but it has been farmed since the 1920s in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental – the number one producer of oysters in the country.

Do oysters need water to live?

Oysters can survive in water that contains 5-35 ppt. Oysters thrive in salinity that ranges from 14-28 ppt. The optimum water temperature for oysters to survive is between 68-90 degrees Fahrenheit, but adult oysters can tolerate water as cold as 38 degrees and as hot as 120 degrees for short periods of time.

How does an oyster get its food?

Oysters feed by extracting algae and other food particles from the water they are almost constantly drawing over their gills. They reproduce when the water warms by broadcast spawning and will change gender once or more during their lifetime.

Are farmed oysters safe to eat?

Unlike many fish species, which are lower in quality and sources of significant pollution when farmed, oysters are actually good for the environment, sustainable, and in some cases even better when cultivated on an oyster farm.

Do oysters need saltwater?

Oysters require salt water, with a salinity of at least 8 parts per thousand (8ppt) to grow. Different strains of oysters grow at different salinities, but salinities greater than 20ppt appear to support the greatest productivity. Oyster diseases are also salinity-dependent.

What are the side effects of eating oysters?

The illnesses of most concerns from eating raw or undercooked oysters or clams are Vibrio infection, norovirus infection, and hepatitis A. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pains, and severe weakness.

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