BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: House of Representative Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla has sought an inquiry on Casecnan River’s delectable fish ludong which is on the brink of extinction arising from construction of water and energy facilities by an American firm.
Introduced by Padilla of the lone congressional district of Nueva Vizcaya, House Resolution 168 is directing the House Committee on Aquaculture and Fisheries Resources to conduct an inquiry on the impending extinction of the ludong in the Casenan River Home to the Bugkalot tribe, the Casecnan River runs through the municipalities of Alfonso Castañeda, Dupax del Norte and Dupax Del Sur in Nueva Vizcaya.
Alfonso Castañeda hosts the multi-million Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP).
Scientifically called Cestraeus plicatilis, ludong thrives like the freshwater mullet, in Casecnan River and in tributaries running through the watersheds of Cagayan Valley and river systems of Ilocos Sur and Abra.
Padilla has attributed ludong’s diminishing population and size reduction to unregulated fishing practices, destruction of watersheds and pollution of rivers and lakes.
He said that the impending extinction of ludong is also “due to the construction of irrigation and electricity generating facilities in the Casecnan area, particularly by California Energy International, Ltd. which operates and controls the [CMIPP].”
”It is necessary to determine the accountability and responsibility [of this water and energy firm]in the extinction of ludong in the area,” he said.
Padilla said there is a need to “conduct studies and formulate more effective measures to ensure the return of more ludong to its Casecnan habitat.”
”[We also need] to evaluate the existing programs of the BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources] toward the conservation and propagation of ludong,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has considered the ludong endangered based on a study conducted by the BFAR which shows that the fish population had consistently declined over the years from around 1.3 million metric tons recorded in 1973. Too, there was significant reduction in the size of the few that were caught over the years.
Meanwhile, the BFAR has also identified several fish species in Cagayan Valley as endangered, some are becoming totally extinct.
According to Dr. Jovita Ayson, BFAR director for Region 2, their extinction is due to several factors, which include habitat loss.
These species are paltat (native catfish), gurami (snake-skinned gourami), igat or sihin (eel), mori (goby), ludong (mullet), bisukul (native snail), cabibi (clam) and udang or ulang (giant freshwater crayfish).
”These freshwater species are endemic in the region threatened or endangered owing to their vanishing population in recent years,” Ayson said.
Also called President’s Fish or Pacific salmon with a market value of at least P5,000 per kilogram, ludong is identified as the most endangered or nearing to extinction.
Experts in fisheries in the region said ludong which also used to thrive along the rivers in northern Isabela to the mouth of the Cagayan River is in danger of becoming to-tally extinct.
Ludong is highly elusive and catadromous in nature, that is, it migrates to the ocean to breed and spawn from October to December and returns to fresh water thereafter.
In partnership with the Bugkalot indigenous communities of Casecnan River, local government units and fishers’ group, the DA has tried to conserve and protect the remaining ludong population by implementing rules, policies and programs.