'SINARAPAN' (Tabios): The World's Smallest Edible Fish--endangered
The Philippines, dubbed as the 'Pearl of the Orient Seas', is very rich in natural resources.
The Philippines is rich in flora and fauna. There is an estimated two million species of plants and animals, many of which are unique to the islands. For various reasons, some kinds have been lost or endangered while others were exploited for commercial purposes. By the turn of the century, many species of plants and animals decreased dramatically in number but some survived through a natural process.
There is so much that the Philippines can offer to the nature lover. Its tropical rainforests are among the most species-rich ecosystems on earth. In fact, substantial parts of the archipelago, both land and underwater, remain unexplored. There are also many virgin forests. The country is known for its dwarf and pygmy species of many ecological families. Unfortunately, a lot of these natural resources are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Logging and mining, illegal fishing (the use of dynamites), and the growing population have a negative effect on ecology because of increasing demand for diminishing food and livelihood sources.
In Bicol you can find the giant fish 'butanding' to the smallest fish 'tabios'.
Buhi is a small town at the periphery of Camarines Sur, which is the location of Lake Buhi, where the smallest edible fish is found, the goby fish 'Sinarapan' (Mistichthys luzonensis). Contrary to common belief, however, sinarapan is not the smallest fish known. Another goby, 'tabios' or dwarf pygmy goby (Pandaka pygmaea), also found in the Philippines (rivers of Malabon, Rizal & Palawan) and Indonesia, is the smallest known vertebrate and, like its cousins in Lake Buhi, are an endangered species. 'Sinarapan' are a type of goby and they are transparent, except for the black eyes. The fish have an average length of 12.5 millimeters. Males are smaller than females.
The 'Sinarapan' or 'tabios' is probably the world's smallest commercially harvested fish found only in the Philippines, and endimic in Lake Buhi and other areas.
STATUS OF SINARAPAN
After about 29 years since the collapse of the fishery, where can we find sinarapan in Camarines Sur? Our studies showed sinarapan can still be found in Lakes Buhi and Bato. The fish is thriving in Lakes Manapao, Katugday and Makuwaw, which are tarns or mountain lakes in Mt. Asog in Buhi, Camarines Sur. The proportion (by number) of the fish relative to other fishes in these lakes vary. It is about 1% in Lake Buhi, 20% in Lake Bato, 25% in Lake Manapao, and 5-10% in Lakes Katugday and Makuwaw. Obviously, the stock in Lakes Buhi and Bato have not recovered significantly from the adverse effects of overfishing. The larger bulk of the fish fauna is composed of sinarapan-looking gobies, larger gobies, mosquito fish and tilapia juveniles. There is a local fishery of the fish in Lake Bato that could be about 1100 kg/yr. This fishery can be considered elicit because by virtue of FAO 127, catching of sinarapan from all areas is prohibited. The situation is being looked into by the Bato local government as BU and the local government are collaborating in the Sinarapan Stock Enhancement Project (LB-SSEP) in Lake Bato. We presented before the Bato Sangguniang Bayan in June 2006 the key findings of our sinarapan population dynamics and stock assessment studies in the lake. This information serves as a major technical input to formulate the LB-SSEP, complemented by the Sinarapan Repopulation Strategy (SRS) that has been utilized in the successful translocation of sinarapan in Lakes Makuwaw and Katudgay. The viable sinarapan stock in Lakes Katugday and Makuwaw have been established through the implementation of the SRS.
There are intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can explain the low population of sinarapan in Lakes Buhi and Bato. Mainly, the stock had experienced the immediate and lagged effects of biological overfishing of various forms – growth, recruitment and ecosystem. In growth overfishing, very high proportion of immature sinarapan was caught or died from fishing operations. Recruitment overfishing results from excessive proportion of adults being fished or dying in fishing. Ecosystem overfishing had been manifested with the sudden occurrence in unusually high quantities of larvae that fishers mistook as “worms”, freshwater shrimp, a theraponid species locally called “ayungin”, and white goby locally called “biya” in the lakes immediately before and few years after the collapse of the fishery. Intrinsically, the fish has very high natural mortality - about 95% in six months and close to 99% in a year, which is a key finding in our population dynamics study of the fish in Lake Manapao. When one tries to relate this mortality to the aquaculture activities in the lakes, the dimension of predation by tilapias from the several thousands tilapia fish cages should be added. Our trophic modeling study in the mountain lakes showed significant predation on sinarapan by the tilapias. Perhaps, you may also add other environmental factors that are contributing to the decline of the sinarapan population. Moreover, sinarapan is not a hardy fish. For example, they could easily die from slight abrasion in nylon “sarap” that is used to catch them. Slight temperature change could also stress them. The development therefore of a strategy for effective stock revival should incorporate the effects of these factors. Until 2001, Lakes Makuwaw and Katugday have been successfully translocated with sinarapan through the research projects in BU in close partnership with the Buhi local government unit and the San Ramon Barangay Council with fund support from PCAMRD and the Ford Motors Company, Philippines. Two other mountain lakes in San Ramon, Buhi, Camarines Sur (Kimat and Paeron) are candidate target sites for sinarapan translocation.
Dr. Victor S. Soliman/Haring Ibon Magazine/http://www.haribon.org.ph/?q=node/view/390, and founder of the Sinarapan Conservation Initiative in Bicol University Tabaco Campus, Tabaco City.