KNOWN for its pristine marine waters that remain relatively untouched, the Isabela province has the potential to supply the fish needs of Cagayan Valley.
A study conducted by the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) in Cagayan Valley (Region) 2 proves
Isabela, with a lengthy range of seacoasts, is rich in untapped fisheries and marine resources including extensive sea grass beds and coral reefs that are home to a variety of fish species.
The four fisheries and marine products-rich coastal towns of Maconacon, Divilacan, Palanan, and Dinapigue in Isabela are considered underexplored because of the lack of easy access to the area. Light planes and boats are the only available modes of transportation to the area.
The Cagayan Valley NSAP study called “Diversity, Species Composition, and Richness of Marine Fish Fauna in Isabela Waters, Philippines,” was spearheaded by project leader Angel Encarnacion and assistant project leader Melanie Villarao.
In 1997, the NSAP, which is attached to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), both under the Department of Agriculture (DA), was conceptualized from the lack of standardized and continuous information on fishery resources, which is fundamental to fishery management.
There was then also a need to develop and institutionalize the capability of the DA’s 16 regional field offices in fishery stock assessment in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
According to Encarnacion, also BFAR-Cagayan Valley marine scientist, their findings in the area assessed indicate demersal species (fish living close to the floor of the sea) dominate the area, followed by large pelagics and small pelagics that inhabit the upper layer of the sea.
He said their study shows the area also has a sizeable chunk of oceanic tunas including neritic (shallow part of the sea) tunas that are abundantly present throughout the year.
The study also added that on species richness, the fishing ground has 238 marine fish species with an evenness value close to one, indicating there is complete evenness.
Encarnacion said species in the area are highly diverse with diversity value of 3.77, which is above 3.5, the typical value.
“High species diversity could be an indication that the habitat is still good and undisturbed. The influence of keystone predators and other biotic interactions might as well contributed to high diversity in the area,” the study said.
In Isabela, Encarnacion explained species richness derived is slightly lower compared to nearby fishing grounds in Cagayan, which could be caused from the use of a few types of gears in the area.
Use of sustainable fishing gears
Encarnacion said contributing to the richness of the marine waters in the area studied is the use of more sustainable fishing gears.
He said these include troll lines and other types of lines, fish traps, and gill nets with smaller number of fisher folk utilizing the resource.
Encarnacion also said that another contributing factor to the richness of species is the flow of Kuroshio or warm current to the area.
“The [Kuroshio] current brings nutrient-rich marine waters from upper latitudes, mainly near Japan,” Encarnacion said.
Meanwhile, BFAR-Cagayan Valley Director Milagros Morales said the agency is continuously conducting technology caravans where technologies as well as livelihood assistance are delivered to further develop the area.
“The establishment of Community Fish Landing Center in the area and adjacent municipalities is also towards same purpose,” she said.
Gov. Faustino Dy 3rd of Isabela said the soon to be completed P2.8-billion road that links Cagayan Valley to Isabela’s coastal areas will surely boost the economies in the region.
“This Ilagan City-Dinapigue road will make it easier for the people in the outlying areas to transport their merchandise like fish and other marine products to the rest of Region 2,” Dy said.