Cagayan Valley is experiencing an increase in eel production that can allow the region to ship more to the world market and increase supply to the domestic market.
Meanwhile, there is an initiative in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte backed by Japanese technology to produce eels commercially.
According to Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 2 Director Jovita Ayson, there are five eel species in Cagayan Valley and there are efforts to conserve natural eel stocks to assure continuous harvests of eels.
The increasing catch of eel in Region 2 is a welcome development, because according to a Taiwanese expert, the harvest of worldwide wild eel harvest has been declining since the 1970s.
According to a presentation prepared by Ayson, there are five native eel species in Cagayan Valley: anguila bicolor pacifica; anguila luzonensis; anguila marmorata; anguila japonica; and anguila bicolor. The invasive rice eel or monopterus albus is also being catched for food but consumers complain of its muddy odor.
Eel production in the region is climbing with P50 million in 2013 that is an improvement over the P40 million in 2012. Even harvest of the invasive rice eels also increased to 2.721 million kilograms in 2014 from 1.861 million kgs.
BFAR research showed mean annual glass eel catch per fishermen in Cagayan Valley was 2.7 kilograms in 2009 and 15.2 kg in 2012, showing a dramatic increase. The price of eel has also gone up from P2,500 per kg in 2011 to P28,000 per kg.
According to Ayson, eel harvested from Cagayan Valley are dried and exported by Manila-based firms. The consolidation point for eel catched is in Appari province.
Because wild eel catch in the region is increasing, Ayson conservation efforts have been put into place. An organization in London is the partner.
“There is a collaborative project with the Zoological Society of London to promote conservation and sustainable management, and support community level fisheries free from overexploitation and involvement on illegal trade,” Ayson said.
The initiatives at the local level to conserve wild eel stocks include: stock enhancement from upstream; assistance in the formulation of local ordinances to support eel conservation; intensifying of the information education campaign for eel conservation; and training on postharvest and product development.
Butuan City initiative
In Butuan City, there is an initiative to produce eels commercially by Cabadbaran Aquatech Resources Corporation (CARC) with Japanese technology. Commercially farmed eels can meet the Japan Agricultural Standard accreditation and be shipped to consumers in Japan.
“In the case of Japan, currently assumed to be a sell-out market, out of the eel consumption of 56,000 tons in 2011, only 22,000 tons were produced domestically while the remaining 34,000 tons were imported mainly from China and Chinese Taipei [Taiwan]. That means the eel imported ration accounts for 60 percent of total consumption. There could be a room to market the farmed eel,” a document on the commercial eel farm project in Butuan City stated.
The Butuan commercial eel production facility project of CARC is still in the development stage.
Declining wild catch
A paper by Taiwanese fisheries and marine expert Wann-Nian Tzeng showed that while the world’s wild eel production from aquaculture increased since the 1970s, the world’s wild eel production has been declining also since the 1970s.
Tzeng is from the Department of Environmental Biology and Fisheries Science of the National Taiwan Ocean University in Taiwan and is a respected marine scientist in his country.
He cited the following possible reasons for the decline in world wild eel production: overexploitation; deteriorating river environments; changing ocean environments; turbines in dams; and parasites. A number of eel species have also gone extinct.
“European eel joined the global list of endangered species in 2007. A permit is required from CITES [Conservation on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] for the export of live eels and eel products from the European Union,” Tzeng said in his paper.
In the Cagayan Valley, however, the five eel species still remain abundant that opens opportunities for the region to be a major exporter of the marine product.