MAASIM, SARANGANI – Sarangani Bay is now the home of five king grouper spawners donated by Finfish Hatcheries Inc., the largest commercial fishing hatchery in the Philippines.

Locally known as “lapu-lapu” or “kugtong,” the giant groupers were released into Sarangani Bay from the jetty of the Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC)’s 210-megawatt power plant during the province’s Ocean Month Celebration last May 26 to help replenish the grouper population in the area.

Declared as a “protected seascape” under Presidential Proclamation 756, Sarangani Bay is also home to a variety of commercially viable fish species such as milkfish fry or “bangus.”

According to Genia Genosa, production superintendent for the Sarangani-based Finfish Hatcheries – the first fry hatchery in the Philippines – a giant lapu-lapu’s weight can range from 80 kilograms to more than 100 kilograms. One giant grouper can spawn as much as 20% of its own body weight in eggs, with a spawning grouper able to lay between 16 kilograms to more than 20 kilograms of egg per cycle. Each kilo of a giant grouper egg can carry as many as 1.2 million fish fry.

“The reason why they lay so many eggs is because the mortality (rate) of their fry is only around 5%. With proper monitoring and supervision, the giant groupers we released can help repopulate Sarangani Bay with groupers,” Genosa said.

A major concern is to ensure the survival of the giant spawners and to keep them safe from fishermen, but Maasim Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. gave his assurance that the local government will help through constant monitoring and feeding. According to mayor Lopez, SEC’s jetty area is part of the 216,000-hectare protected portion of Sarangani Bay, which is why catching the and other marine species in the covered area would be considered illegal.

“We will ask the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to keep an eye on the giant groupers and help us make sure that they are safe,” Lopez reiterated.

The 805th Squadron of the Phil. Coast Guard Auxiliary stationed near the jetty also vowed to watch out for enterprising fishermen who might be tempted to catch one of the giant groupers.

Former Sarangani Governor and Alsons Aquaculture VP for operations Miguel Dominguez said that this is the first time that a private company is reseeding a marine protected area with breeders to ensure continued fish production.

“This is a significant contribution because we are going to seed the marine protected area with grouper breeders so they will reproduce fish that later on will become available for the fishermen to catch at allowed fishing grounds,” Dominguez said.

“We have been restocking Sarangani Bay with milkfish but we decided to take it a step further by putting breeders back in the wild where they belong. Not only will it help in the sustainability of the bay, but hopefully the giant groupers will also become a big tourist attraction for Maasim. Divers can swim with these giant creatures since they are friendly,” Dominguez added.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has designated May as the ocean month by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 57 issued in 1999. This year’s celebration highlights the significance as well as the conservation and protection of coral reefs.

During the event, Alsons Power corporate affairs manager Ruben Tungpalan reiterated SEC’s commitment to protect and preserve Sarangani Bay. “We are situated right in front of Sarangani Bay, which means that we have the bigger responsibility of making sure that they bay is protected and preserved,” Tungpalan said.

“More than ensuring the protection and preservation of the environment, we at SEC share the Alsons Power Group’s objective of helping revitalize and cultivate the environment especially our seascapes,” Tungpalan stated.