ANDA– Twice a week, Roming Andajer, 49, a resident of coastal village Tondol in this island town, goes out to the sea. But he does not go fishing. He is tending a "sea garden." The "garden" is actually a seaweed farm – a quarter of a hectare about a meter under water and planted with seaweeds eucheuma, kappaphycus and other species which have plenty of industrial and food uses.

Andajer would remove the grasses that attach to the seaweeds, as well as mud and other debris that can hamper the growth, or even cause of the death, of the plant. He would also shoo away sea turtles that come to graze on the seaweeds, feasting on the luxuriant farm "for free."

"They are not welcome," Andajer said of the giant sea turtles. Not welcome too, are the fish like malaga that usually feed on seaweeds.For Andajer, a maintainer of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources' (BFAR) farm, and the other seaweed farmers in the different coastal towns, sea turtles are a big headache. "They can finish off an entire farm in just a few days," Andajer said.

"We would scare them away, but it is like a hide and seek game. In a minute they are in front of you, the next minute they are behind you with only their head above the water. If we are able to shoo them away, they would be gone in two or three days, then they are back again. We have to be patient," Andajer said.

Farmer-cooperators in other towns have the same complaint. Rommel Valenzuela, 24, whose parents are seaweed farm operators in Dasol, said sea turtles likewise graze in their seaweed farm and in the farms in other villages. The seaweed farmers know that catching, or killing, the sea turtles is illegal. So they thought of doing something to keep rid of the sea creatures without endangering their lives.

Most of them have caged their seafarms, Amanda Galang, coordinator of the BFAR's seaweed farming program in the Ilocos Region, said.

Now, some seaweed farms are caged with bamboos and nets. The others resorted to culturing seaweeds in "baskets" tied to the ropes (open long lines) where the seaweeds used to be grown. "What is good about caging or basketing the seaweeds is that, even if there is typhoon and the planting materials are untied from the ropes, they are not carried away by the current. They just fall into the floor of the cage or basket," said Efren Monterola, a maintainer of the BFAR's nursery at the Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City.


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