Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bacolod: Harvesting Shrimp

Harvesting Shrimp in Bacolod

Although Bacolod is more known for its sugarcane production, another lucrative trade here is the shrimp industry. The prawn farms or "punongs" as they call them in the local dialect, have supplied many an international company with the shrimp they need for export to other parts of the world.

This blog post is simply my fun little take on what it was like attending my good friend's first ever harvest of shrimp.

If there's one thing I learned about shrimp farming from my good friend, is that it is all about risk. Yes, I am aware that each business has its own risks and what not, but I would have to think that prawn farming is a little bit riskier than the rest. The rest of this blog post contains my amateur and unprofessional observations as to what shrimp farming is all about.

Let me enumerate why shrimp farming is risky:

  • Shrimp are very susceptible to disease coming from foreign matter falling into their ponds. Example: Let's say a sea gull were flying overhead, carrying it's fresh catch of a crab. Let's say that the crab happens to get loose and drop into the shrimp pond. The moment this happens, the crab might have introduced a foreign virus into the carefully cultured environment and this will force the owners to harvest his shrimp prematurely and right away.
  • Same can be said for storms. Shrimp farmers hate the rain and storms because it can induce foreign matter into their ponds. It can also cause flooding. Excess water is bad since I am told that farmers have to maintain a certain acidity level to the water otherwise all the shrimp will die.
  • Birds constantly assault shrimps in their pond. It is like an all you can eat buffet. Farmers have to string up ropes and wires above their ponds to deter birds from dive bombing into their gold mine.
  • Once a shrimp gets infected and dies, other shrimp won't really mind him and they'll actually make a tasty snack out of him. This will then spread the disease and before you know it, all your shrimp will be infected. 
  • Well thats all I can think of as of the moment, I'll add whatever I can come up with to this post as I go along. 
Now on to the pictures:

Shrimp farming involves a lot of people actually jumping into the cold pond filled with feces at the bottom. (Unsavory I know). They then drag nets from one end to the other walking in unison and also keeping the net close to the pond bottom so that shrimp have no chance to escape. They do this about 5 times back and forth or until all of the shrimp has been harvested. 

Some harvesters resting their tired arms by using their heads to lift the net. 

This is what full grown shrimp looks like. These guys have sharp barbs on their heads and tails which they flick around. These can blind you if you're harvesting in the pond and you're not careful. That's why people wear goggles. 

A proud shrimp farmer sorts his catch towards the end of the day. These guys get up at 4 AM to begin harvest and usually end the harvest of one single pond at about 7 PM. This of course depends on how many people are doing the harvest. For this particular pond, there were about 20 harvesters that day. 

Farmers share a joke and a laugh during the tedious chore of sorting the shrimp that have just been frozen in a pale of water to instantly kill them. Shrimp are very sensitive to temperature so once they are netted and pulled out of the pond, they are dunked in a large tub of ice water for a few seconds to kill them. They are then sorted based on size on a large flat table.

From the sorting table, the shrimp are placed into buckets which are then loaded on to a truck supplied by a prawn buyer. These buckets or crates are carted directly to the processing plant of the buyer as soon as the truck is full. 

A shrimp technician gamely poses for a photo during harvest. Shrimp technicians are provided by the companies that supply farmers with shrimp feeds and hatchlings. It is a way for these companies to ensure that the shrimp farmer continues to patronize his feeds or hatchlings.

My good friend poses in front of his 'punong' or shrimp pond as they are called in the local dialect. 

Golden sunlight hits a patch of freshly caught shrimp that is being sorted. With the current boom in the shrimp farming industry, many farmers are jumping in on the trend and raking in a hefty profit. Things are looking good for this industry but the question as to when the proverbial bubble will burst hangs over the head of many enterprising shrimp farmers. 

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