The Philippines, an archipelago, is home to 330 species of freshwater fish alone, according to Wikipedia. Very vital to the people’s health as food and to the country’s economy as source of income, fish abounds in its seas, rivers, lakes and tributaries.
Ludong, Philippines premier fish
Currently occupying the apex of Philippine marine and aquatic products is the Ludong, which is the country’s most expensive fish because it is seasonal and difficult to catch, according the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as published in the Philippine Star, Sunday issue, Sept. 28, 2014, page A-27. Enjoying its premier position, Ludong assumes other names, such as the President’s Fish or Pacific Salmon, lobed river mullet, banak. This fish is known for its unique taste and peculiar aroma when cooked. In fact, its unique taste makes it one of the most sought-after ingredients in making delicious dishes.
Cagayan Valley, Cagayan river; including its tributaries and watersheds, the Santa-Abra’s River Systems of Ilocos Sur and Abra, and the headwaters in Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya are the known places in the Philippines where Ludongs thrived. According to the BFAR, this fish is habituating in the deep pools of Addalem River in Aglipay, Quirino, and rapids of Didimpit in Lacab, Jones, Isabela. Reliable sources have also listed Celebes, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and Fiji as areas where the ludong or lobed river mullet may be found.
Ludong is herbivorous, eating only the filamentous algae that live on rocks and boulders in and near river rapids.
Every year from October to December is Spawning Season for this rare and unique fish. During this period, BFAR said, female ludongs migrate from the headwaters in Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya toward the sea to spawn. Then they return back to upstream ponds during December, January and February, and this upriver migration coincides with the “ipon-run phenomenon” wherein different species of fish likewise joined the movement. Local fishermen knew this annual migration by heart so they set fishtraps in the rivers or lakes where the pregnant ludongs would pass on their way to the sea to lay eggs. To the fishermen, this is a big opportunity for them to augment their income, but for the unsuspecting fishes which are heavy with their eggs and are caught, end up on the table or market before reaching their destination. Sadly, they are deprived of their biological mission to reproduce and replenish their species. Indeed, Ludong fishing is an attractive livelihood. Reportedly, Ludong sells for P5,000 a kilo, a handsome price for marginalized fishermen. But what would happen if no fishing control is imposed?
Closed season on Ludong fishing from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 of every year
Authorities from the country’s BFAR and fishing experts as well are aware of this problem that catching ludongs without controls is disastrous to the industry. So BFAR imposed a 45-day ban which has started last Oct. 1 until Nov. 15 of every year against catching ludongs. The ban, BFAR said, is covered under fisheries Order No. 31, which prohibits buying, selling, transporting, exporting or possession of Ludong. Convicted violators would face imprisonment of 8 years, plus a fine of P6,000 to P80.000.
Spearheading this task of protecting the Ludong Industry is BFAR, said Arsenio Banares, regional chief of the agency’s regulatory and quarantine division, with able assistance from personnel coming from the Philippine Coast Guard, Police, Local Government Units and volunteers from the bureau’s Sagip Ludong Movement. According to Banares, the ban is in keeping with BFAR’s Administrative Circular Declaring Closed Season on Ludong Fishing from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 of every year. As mandated, the composite ban-implementing team reported for duty and action on Oct. 1, particularly, on the Ludong habitats named before and other applicable places or areas. Explicitely, “the teams are tasked to conduct patrol, surveillance and market denial operations to ensure that fishers and buyers comply with the ban,” said Banares.
Graduated BSEic teaching course; Teach public schools elementary grades 1964-1974; Municipal Local Government Operations Officers IV, DILG, Oct. 4, 1974- jan, 1, 2002 (retired); Writing online 2003 to present.