one side of the road for 50 yards (150 feet) or so and were avoided
There were many distance signs on the roadsides depicting the
“death march” where, in 1942, the Japanese made the Filipino
people march for many miles with little food or water; many died
along the way. It was sad to learn of the hardships suffered by so
many on this journey.
Well into the countryside and along a dirt track, we came to a
sign advertising the fish farm that sold sex reversal tilapia. I was
keen to find out more. On arrival we were met by the owner, who
showed us around. Our first sight was the open office opposite
the main house. Some pools with baby tilapia were alongside.
Beside these pools and immediately opposite the house was a large
collection of trees, many bearing fruit. Fruit trees are a familiar
sight in the Philippines, with trees in almost every garden and plot
of vacant land.
On exiting the side of the office we were met by a large expanse
of football-field-size ponds covering several acres. A small stream
flowed down the side of the fish farm, which is where the water
supply came from. Just below the farm was a river. There were
many ponds, some were divided by netting and most had signposts
stating the size or age of the fish they contained. The narrow
walkways between the ponds required careful footing, and in
several areas only a plank of wood was there to walk on as a bridge.
The owner spoke little English but fortunately our charming
translator asked our questions.
This fish farm was not there to specifically grow the fish for
food, but rather to breed and supply fingerlings to other fish
farms so they could grow the young to market size. I assumed
that it was easier to breed the fish in smaller, more controlled
environments and to let the farms on the lakes grow the fish
to the right length. This was possible due to the larger volume
of water on the lakes, which allowed for heavy feeding of the
fish. Tilapia, in any case, are well known for their ability to be
resistant to poor water conditions resulting from overcrowding
and overfeeding. Unfortunately, the other fish in the lakes may
not be so resistant, and it may only be a matter of time before we
lose another endemic fish.
It became clear that the owner had no proper knowledge of the
fish species he had, nor of how it came to be. I asked what species
these originated from, but he was only able to state where he got his
stock from. He did, however, know they were crossbred.
On further investigation I found out that they were a cross
between O. mossambicus and O. niloticus. These hybrids grow
bigger and more quickly than their original parents and so are of
benefit as a food fish. These fish were also treated with hormones
when young so only bigger, stronger males would be produced.
Again, this is all in the name of commercial activities. These fish
are fertile and concern must be had for escapees, which get out
regularly in times of floods. I saw many escaped tilapia fry beside
the river in the small stream. They were swimming against the
current and were all congregated in very small ponds formed by
mesh dirt traps.
There were some encouraging signs of conservation efforts
taking place. I did see one turtle conservation area where the wild
turtles came ashore to lay their eggs. The beach was actually a
tourist beach club, so the eggs were dug up and placed in protective
Employees man the displays at Bioresearch, the country’s largest private
ornamental fish producer.
The marine turtle preserve is a popular attraction among ecology-minded tourists.
areas and labeled with the date and the individual turtle that laid
them. They were able to do this because the turtles were tagged,
and it was always a tourist pleaser to watch these animals come up
the beach and lay eggs. Sponsorship was available, as were t-shirts
and other tourist goods. However, I was left feeling that these
turtles were little more than part of a money-making scheme,
and that actual preservation was perhaps not as important as was
All in all, the Filipino people are very nice and polite. At one
time, I had five young shop girls searching for a compact disc I
was looking for. This is normal, as they are always willing to go
out of their way to help. In general they seemed to have little
knowledge of the need for conservation efforts, though, which
is a pity. Hopefully I will return someday, and I hope to see less
obvious pollution in rivers and waterways. The government has an
enormous task ahead of them, but they are trying, and many people
realize and appreciate this.