AT least 100,000 elvers (young eels) were dispersed to the communal bodies of water in Cagayan River and its tributaries, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Under the Stock Enhancement of Elvers Program (SEEP), the BFAR has been dispersing elvers annually to preserve and propagate the dwindling population of eels (Anguilla) in the Cagayan Valley region.
The elvers were dispersed in areas that were declared as sanctuaries, where there is history of abundance of eel population in the past.
Areas which were included in the BFAR’s stock enhancement program this year are the towns of Gattaran and Baggao in Cagayan; San Mariano, Angadanan, San Guillermo, and San Pablo in Isabela; Aglipay, Cabarroguis, Maddela and Nagtipunan in Quirino; and Alfonso Castañeda in Nueva Vizcaya.
According to BFAR, catching of eels can be a source of income and source of food among fishermen in inland areas. Eels also play an important role in the environment or ecosystem.
“That is why it is important that we conserve them [eels]and protect their habitats,” Aeron Mayor, SEEP project leader, said.
Based on International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, some types of eels are endangered and near-threatened species.
This is caused by excessive fishing of elvers from the mouth of the sea or estuary, which is aggravated by the high demand for elvers from neighboring countries in Asia. Elvers fetches a high price in the market ranging from P7,000 to P40,000 a kilo from 2009 to 2012.
In addition to the elver stock enhancement program as a way to protect eels, it is also prohibited to export
elvers under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 242.
The BFAR is collaborating with Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a non-government organization involved in the conservation of eels.
The BFAR-ZSL collaboration aims to establish eel sanctuaries and to provide training and capacity building among the communities where eel sanctuaries are established.
There are 12 new fish sanctuaries all over the Cagayan Valley region to revitalize the once abundant population of eels in the country.