Cagayan Valley BFAR exec blames Casecnan dam project for ‘ludong’ extinction

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya , Feb 19 (PNA) — The diminishing supply of ‘ludong’ (Cestraeus plicatilis) fish in the territories of the Bugkalots tribe in Nueva Vizcaya has been traced to the ongoing operations of the Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation and Power Project(CMIPP) in Alfonso Castaneda town.

Jovita Ayson, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources(BFAR) regional director, said their agency was not consulted during the construction stage of the CMIPP which divert irrigation waters from Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces for irrigation of farmlands and augment power requirements in Central Luzon.

“Our agency was not consulted during the building stage of the CMIPP. Interventions should have been put in place to preserve the abundance of ‘ludong’ fish specie in the Casecnan rivers,” Ayson said during a hearing of the Congress’ committee on aquatic and fish resources.

Representative Carlos Padilla has initiated a series of congressional hearings to look into the decreasing number of the ‘ludong’ which serves as a source of income among the Bugkalot tribe.

A kilo of the fish specie is sold at P5,000 or more according to Padilla which makes it as a good source of income by the members of the Bugkalot tribe in Alfonso Castaneda and Dupax del Sur towns.

The solon also cited the low water level of the Casecnan rivers as a deterrent factor in causing the population of ‘ludong’ to spawn or reproduce itself from October to December.

Ayson, on the other hand, said fish ladders should have been built during the CMIPP’s construction stage and considering its construction at present is no longer economically feasible due to the irrigation project’s engineering design and insufficient water level.Fish ladder is a series of pools built like steps to enable fish to bypass a dam or a waterfall.

“Without this, ‘Ludong’ cannot migrate to reproduce and with the 10-year operation of the CMIPP, there is now an extinction of the fish specie,” she said.

According to Ayson, the CMIPP contractor should make the necessary interventions to bring back the abundance of the fish specie in the Casecnan rivers, establishment of fish sanctuaries, deputize community residents as fish wardens and prevent illegal fishing to ensure the abundance of ‘ludong’ in the areas.

BFAR, she said has been conducting research on the fish specie which thrives in the river habitats in the towns of Jones, San Agustin and San Mariano in Isabela, within the Addalam river in Quirino province and the Casecnan river in Alfonso Castaneda and Dupax del Sur towns in Nueva Vizcaya.

Since time immemorial, ‘ludong’ serves as a source of livelihood of the Bugkalot tribes in Quirino, Aurora and Nueva Vizcaya provinces.

‘Ludong’ is touted as the most expensive fish in the Philippines. It is frequently referred to as the President’s Fish or the Northwest Salmon. It is known for its role in fine cuisine, but is also listed as one of the world’s most endangered fresh water fishes. (PNA)