BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday set a fine of P80,000 for catching endangered fish ludong.
BFAR officials said that the new penalty is a raise from a measly P200 against catching of the fish species, which has been declared as critically endangered only endemic along the headwaters in Cagayan Valley.
Dr. Jovita Ayson, BFAR director for Cagayan Valley, said that the new measure is part of the government’s further efforts to save the dwindling fish species from extinction because of “over fishing and habitat loss.”
Ayson said ludong is the country’s most expensive fish and it is now placed under a new administrative order which penalizes anyone found guilty of “catching, selling, purchasing and exporting” with a fine of P80,000 or a maximum imprisonment of up to eight years.
With its delectable taste, the fish is valued at P5,000 per kilo, the reason for its name the President’s Fish or Pacific Salmon. Ludong’s other only known habitats are located along the major river tributaries and watersheds in the provinces of Abra and Ilocos Sur.
Ayson said that Administrative Circular (AC) 27, in line with the Fisheries Code of the Philippines, was signed recently by both Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala Jr. and BFAR National Director Asis Perez.
Ayson said violations of the measure include preparing and serving ludong as food delicacy. She said however that the order aimed to protect and conserve the endangered fish species only covers the months of October to November.
Fish experts said these are the months that ludong females start to migrate from their freshwater habitat to saltwater or to the open sea to spawn.
“It is on this once-a-year journey that fisherfolk along the Cagayan River and its tributaries in Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Isabela would take advantage to catch ludong even before they could reach their destination, depriving them to lay their eggs and reproduce,” Ayson explained.
“We hope that the new measure would further strengthen efforts to give ludong the chance to recuperate from a dwindling population and eventually saving the fish species from extinction,” she said.
However, BFAR officials said that catching of ludong of any size solely for scientific, educational or propagation purposes is allowed.
Officials said the new administrative circular is a new progress in the continued research and development on ludong’s biology and habitats, breeding, nutrition and feeding.