TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan: The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Thursday dispersed 45,000 elvers to the Pinacanauan River Peñablanca town to save the dwidling eel population in Cagayan Valley.
BFAR Region 2 Director Jovita Ayson said the Pinacauan River will soon become home to tons of eels with the dispersal of elvers (Anguilla).
“The production of eel is one of the livelihoods of most communities in the town of Peñablanca particularly in far-flung areas,” Ayson said.
She said however that due to overfishing, the eel population has decreased over the years affecting not only the town of Peñablanca but also the Cagayan Valley region.
“This is why we continuously seed the Pinacanauan river with stocks like tilapia fingerlings and elvers through our Eel Enhancement Program,” Ayson explained.
In 2011, the price of elvers (anguilla morata and anguilla japonica) was only P2,500 a kilogram which rose to P28,000 a kilogram. Local traders then were selling these to exporters in Metro Manila for as much as P40,000 per kilo.
A popular aphrodisiac, elvers were also smuggled out of the country to be grown as adults and cooked into a favorite dish believed to add stamina for men.
BFAR experts said that schools of the translucent fry—about a week old and five centimeters long—are caught in the mouths of rivers in Cagayan that flow out to the Babuyan Channel.
They said that from their habitats in upland rivers, egg-laying eels swim downstream to the sea to spawn.
“The problem here is that no elvers will go back to their original habitats to grow as adults because they are excessively caught on the seashores and if the situation is not placed under control, they may soon become extinct,” Ayson said.
Ayson said that they are also closely monitoring fishing areas all over the region against the use of blast and electro-fishing gadgets to save eel and other species from extinction.
Ayson said BFAR is also scheduled to disperse the same stocks in the provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino and “we hope to develop a technology that will help fishermen grow elvers”.