A species of mullet reputed to be one of the favourite dishes of former president Marcos is facing extinction due to over fishing in the Philippines.
The lobed river mullet is a high value fish popularly known as the “presidents fish”. It’s high value and demand has led to overfishing which is diminishing the fish stock numbers, said Jovita Ayson a regional director of the fisheries bureau."It is a threatened species and we have to do something about it before it goes extinct. If we don’t stop the indiscriminate catching, in a short while, it could vanish,"
The fisheries bureau is requesting a ban for five years on the catching of Cestraeus plicatilis, locally known as "ludong" or "banak".
It is found in only a few countries, and in the Philippines its habitat is limited to a few rivers in the northern regions.
It sells for around P5,000 per kg, which only the wealthiest can afford, making it the most expensive fish in the Philippines.
But this also leads fishermen to catch it even during its spawning season, not leaving enough mature fish to breed,
"You cannot stop fishermen from catching it. It is too valuable. People even pay the fishermen in advance for their catch," Jovita Ayson said.
The mullet grows to 32.5 centimetres (12.8 inches), but those currently being caught are now much smaller, weighing only 250 grams (8.9 ounces) from as much as 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) a few years back, a sign fewer are reaching maturity and that the numbers are dwindelling due to overfishing.
"A lot of people like the smell. It has a unique aroma and a special taste," she said, explaining the demand.
The fisheries bureau is experimenting on breeding the fish in captivity and educating the local populace on the need to keep it from dying out, Ayson said.
Problem is from experiences I have seen and had in the Philippines trying to educate people for change especially when in very poor communities who are living hand to mouth its very difficult to get them to see the things for the future when they live for today.