There is an increasing demand for ornamental fish worldwide. In the US alone, there are around 1,500 hypermarkets that require continuous supply of ornamental fish.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reports that 90 percent of the fish traded in the world market are freshwater species. The country currently supplies around 3.8 percent of the total ornamental fish export worldwide valued at US$4 million. Most of these fishes are marine species that are caught in the wild.
In the past many years, ornamental fishes were not given much attention by the government because the priority had always been food fish such as tilapia, bangus, carp and other species.
Dr. Rosa F. Macas, director of BFAR Region 4-A revealed that as early as 2000, they tried to promote ornamental fish production after observing that the Philippines was importing a lot of goldfish and many other species.
The program, however, did not prosper for a number of reasons such as lack of breeders, lack of research and development, lack of facilities and others.
Fortunately, in 2003 Wilson Ang approached the BFAR proposing a collaboration of his firm with the government agency. Collaboration of the two, including the local governments, would really push the program significantly. For one, Bio Research has the technical know-how in breeding and management of ornamental fishes. It has the available breeders as well as the market. Wilson assured that all the technical know-how of Bio Research in connection with ornamental fishes will be openly shared with the public. “No secrets here,” he said.
Big Untapped Market
Wilson sees a big export potential for ornamental fishes if the program could be undertaken in such a way that large volumes could be produced year-round.
The untapped markets are the big hypermarts in the United States and Japan. Wal Mart, Tepco and Petsmart are huge chains in the US with pet sections in their outlets which number by the thousands. Wilson said these chains have been wanting to source their supplies from a major source that could supply them with their requirements throughout the year. As of now, he said, they get their supplies in limited quantities from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and elsewhere. The supply is not consistent and erratic in availability.
Wilson believes that if the ornamental tropical fish industry could be developed in Laguna Lake and Taal Lake, we can supply the big players in the US. Besides the US, another big market is Japan.