5-year ‘ludong’ fish ban pushed
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The imminent extinction of the rare “ludong” fish species, also known as the lobed river mullet, depends on the proactive moves of local government units hosting the fish’s habitats and their support of the fishery sector in Cagayan Valley.
Dr. Evelyn Ame, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources research division chief and project leader of the Ludong Preservation Project, said a five-year ban on catching the fish is being pushed, while the bureau is rallying support from the LGUs through the enactment of ordinances and resolutions.
The closed season for “ludong” fishing would be enforced during its migration run from October to December every year, to enable the endangered species to reproduce, Ame said.
The proposed five-year ban would be “a sufficient period to revive the stable population of the fish species” and was conceived after extensive research, the BFAR official added.
Ludong is herbivorous, eating only the filamentous algae that live on rocks and boulders in and near river rapids, according to the bureau. A mature fish weighs from 250 grabs to 2 kg and costs P4,000 to P5,000 a kilo, making it the most expensive fish in the Philippines.
It commands a very high price in the market because it grows seasonally and is difficult to catch. It migrates to the ocean to breed, then returns to its freshwater upstream ponds, the BFAR said.
This fish is known for its unique taste and peculiar aroma when cooked, and its unique taste makes it one of the most sought-after ingredients for delicious dishes, Ame said.
“During this closed season, amendments to the Fishery Administrative Order 31 series of 1952 known as the Regulation for the Conservation of ‘Banak’ or ‘Ludong’ in Northern Luzon will be made,” she said.
Ame said amending FAO 31 aims to update its penalty clause, for those who will be caught fishing “ludong,” from only P200 to P80,000.
“After the ban, fish farmers can harvest them again, and hopefully by that time we will be able to produce ‘ludong’ in captivity. Our present conservation efforts are aimed at ensuring that our children can still see live ‘ludong’ in the future, and at the same time provide residents a sustainable source of livelihood,” she added.
BFAR Regional Director Jovita Ayson also appealed to fishermen operating along the Cagayan River and its tributaries, to cease fishing for ‘ludong,’ and for consumers to refrain from buying them and report any attempt of selling the rare fish to the bureau.
Ludong is also known as the “President’s Fish” because of its expensive price, aside from its status as a cultural symbol for the various indigenous tribes of Cagayan Valley.
The Bugkalot tribe in Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Aurora confirmed the dwindling number of the “ludong,” which serves as one of its major sources of income at the Casecnan watershed areas.
“Several legislations, interventions and studies have been made since that time, however, very little is still known about the species to date,” Ayson said.
She said they are optimistic on the success of the ‘Ludong’ closed season since fishermen from major ‘Ludong’ habitats in Cagayan Valley have expressed their full support in the government’s conservation efforts.
Ayson also said the fishermen also vowed to protect the ‘Ludong’ fish during an information campaign, made by the BFAR and Philippine Information Agency.
The campaign was a component of the Oplan Sagip Ludong project crafted in late 2010 through the directive of then agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala.