BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya: In a move to save the endangered Anguillid eel in the Cagayan Valley region, two foreign-based zoologists are pushing for crafting of management plans for the conservation of this endangered species.
Believed to have vast medical significance, Anguillid is a species of elver eel found in the fresh and brackish waters of Northern Philippines and is now endangered according to international research reports.
Amid their ever-increasing prices in the international market, baby eels or elvers are a favorite delicacy in various Asian cuisines and a rising export in America.
Believed by Chinese and Koreans as an aphrodisiac or at least a source of virility is the reason why there is great demand in Asian markets.
Also known as eel fry, the sudden skyrocketing in the price of baby eels from a mere P2,500 per kilo two years ago to at least P15,000 a kilo, has encouraged more residents to engage in gathering them.
But a full-grown eel, also locally known as igat, dalara or siging among Ibanags, costs at least P1,000.
Because of their high-market value in Asian markets, full-grown eels are now becoming rare as fishermen opt to catch them in their baby stage.
A research presented by Dr. Matthew Gollock of the Zoology Society of London and Dr. Joyce Wu of the Traffic East Taiwan reveals that Anguillid species of eel was earlier found to be threatened in Europe.
“Climate change, disease parasitism, pollution of the bodies of water, and barriers to fish migrations cause decline of production of the eel’s species,” Gollock said.
He said European countries also face the same threats in the production of the Angullid eel also because of over-gathering of the eel’s fry and exporting them to other countries.
The report also said that most of the eel species from the Philippines are exported to Asian countries China, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
From 2002 to 2011, most of the exportations, based on the reports, were brought to China and Hong Kong, while in 2012 most of the exports went to Korea, the report said.
The zoologists, however, cannot establish the very reason why these countries are importing eels, aside from the reason that it is a precious food to northwestern countries.
As a livelihood potential for the fisherfolk, Gollock and Wu said that the Philippine government needs to address the threatening decline of the fish species population by crafting a management plan to conserve and protect the elver eel.
Dr. Jovita P. Ayson, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Region 2, or Cagayan Valley, said that they will do a management plan and further strengthen their monitoring to strictly implement Fisheries Administrative Order 242 banning the exportation of elver eels from the Philippines.
“It is really important to have partnership with foreign researches for us to establish our conservation and protection plan to ensure that the next generation will be able to taste the elver eel species,” Ayson said.
However, Ayson said that gathering of adult eel is not prohibited but appealed to gatherers to spare the elver eels for conservation.