TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan: A London-based charity and conservation organization is launching a research project on eel species that can be found in Cagayan province in Northern Luzon.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)-Philippines will be conducting a first-ever study on eel (Anguillidae) species found in the province, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said.
BFAR Regional Director Jovita Ayson said the project is also being supported by Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Biodiversity Management Bureau at the central and regional offices in Cagayan Valley.
Called “Eel as a Flagship Species for Freshwater Conservation in the Philippines,” ZSL marine and freshwater program manager Dr. Matthew Gollock said the project also “attempts to explore and understand the species better to uplift the economic status of the gatherers particularly those in Cagayan province.”
Gollock, also chairman of the IUCN Anguillid Specialist Sub-Group (ASSG), recently established a group of global stakeholders from the academe, non-government and government organizations and industry in support of the eel study.
ASSG aims to catalyze and coordinate research, conservation and communication related to Anguillids.
An expert who had devoted 15 years studying eels, Gollock said the research is very important as the Philippines is home to five of the only 16 eel species in the world.
The five species that can be found along the Cagayan River had been identified as Anguilla marmorata (Giant Mottled Eel), Anguilla bicolor pacifica (Indian Short finned Eel), Anguilla luzonensis (Luzon Mottled Eel), Anguilla celebenensis (Celebes Long finned Eel) and the Anguilla japonica (Japanese eel).
“It is our goal at the end of the project to have a sustainable eel management plan for the Cagayan River Basin,” Gollock said.
ZSL officials said the project also aims to establish an aquatic survey method to monitor freshwater biodiversity in the Cagayan Valley region as well as to be able to mitigate key threats.
Project Manager Rainero Morgia said the study is a pioneering venture in the country as there are very few researches conducted on eels.
“Since the implementation of the project, we have interviewed 659 fisherfolk who are lalso into gathering and trading of Anguilla in the local market and we are still on the gathering of other information related to eel in the province,” Morgia added.
He said the project is expected to establish a link between the local and international market.
Morgia added that local people’s organizations can be developed as managers of eel fisheries at the community level.
A charity founded in 1826, ZSL, Morgia said, has been working on freshwater eel conservation for nearly 10 years in the United Kingdom and other countries. It is also a world-renowned center of excellence for conservation science and applied conservation.
Eel commands a good price abroad. In 2010, a kilo of eel was sold at $15,000 in the European market.
Because of this, the BFAR said many people are catching Anguilla along major tributaries of the Cagayan River from Lal-lo to Gonzaga in Cagayan.
The eels were being bought from catchers for P27 a kilo. When taken to Manila, these are being sold at P45 per kilo.
Earlier, the Department of Education had earlier expressed alarm when students would rather catch eels than go to school.