BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya: A London-based conservationist group has committed $1.8 million to save the endangered Cagayan eel.
The fund, to be provided by the Global Conservation International (GCI), will support local efforts to protect and save the fish species from extinction, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) based in Tuguegarao City.
BFAR and GCI officials said the money will be used for biodiversity and threat assessment, mitigation as well as community livelihood and international trade.
Last week, two foreign-based zoologists met fisheries officials led by Dr. Jovita Ayson, regional director of the BFAR, in a forum to push the drafting of management plans to save the eel.
In the forum, Dr. Matthew Gollock of the Zoology Society of London, and Dr. Joyce Wu of the Traffic East Taiwan, said in their research paper that the Anguillid eel species is also threatened in Europe. Gollocks and Wu have been into eel conservation efforts in the American and Caribbean Islands as well as in Asia.
Ayson said through the forum, they hope to come out with immediate and long-term measures to prevent the eel from sliding into extinction and to identify the problems in fish conservation.
The Anguillid eel, which is found in the fresh and brackish waters in Cagayan and other areas in Northern Luzon, is an exotic delicacy for Chinese and Koreans who believe that it is an aphrodisiac.
The frenzied gathering of elvers or baby eels in coastal towns in Cagayan has alarmed the BFAR. Elvers are reportedly sold for as high as P40,000 a kilo. The baby eels are shipped to China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Ayson said the price of a kilo of elvers was only P2,500 a year ago.
The decline in the eels’ population was also blamed on climate change, parasitism, pollution of rivers, and barriers to fish migration.
Seven more freshwater species in the Cagayan Valley are threatened, according to the BFAR.
These are the delectable ludong (mullet), the country’s most expensive fish; paltat (native catfish); gurami (snake skinned gourami); mori (goby); bisukul (native snail); cabibi (clam); and udang or ulang (giant freshwater prawn).
Also called the President’s Fish or Pacific Salmon, ludong is sold for at least P5,000 per kilo. It is probably the most endangered fish in the region.