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World’s smallest commercial fish thrives in Bicol

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Comment by Rhaydz B. Barcia on July 11, 2011 at 7:52
Once believed to be confined to Lake Buhi and Lake Bato where overfishing and fish corrals almost wiped out tabios stock, the world’s smallest fish may have found a new home on top of Mount Masaraga in Albay province.

By Rhaydz B. Barcia, Correspondent

POLANGUI, Albay: Lethal levels of water pollution and lack of conservation measures were the final blows that wiped out Pandaka pygmea, or dwarf goby — once the world’s smallest fish that teemed then in the ditches and waterways of what is now Malabon City in Metro Manila.

The dwarf goby went extinct in the 1980s. So sinarapan (literally caught with fine-mesh net called sarap) or tabios (Mistichthys luzonensis) took the distinction in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest commercial fish—average length is 12 mm.—and is apparently taking the same route to extinction.

Once thought to be confined to Lake Buhi and Lake Bato, where overfishing and fish corrals also nearly wiped out tabios stock, the world’s smallest fish may have found a new haven atop Mount Masaraga in Albay, thriving in a 11.3-hectare heart-shaped Lake Danao some 500 meters above sea level.

Tabios is served as a native delicacy — simmered in coconut cream with red, hot chili peppers, vinegar and greens.

Mayor Cherry Mella-Sampal of Polangui told The Manila Times that the world’s smallest fish enjoys some protection in Lake Danao and provides livelihood to communities in nearby areas.

Sampal said that with the discovery of bountiful source of tabios in Lake Danao here, the endangered species will be protected as they will not allow any fishpond operations to be put up within the lake to ensure conservation for the smallest fish in the world.

Tabios feeds on aquatic microorganisms called plankton.
So, Bicol Peninsula stands out as home to both the smallest and biggest fish in the world—“butanding’ (whale shark) in Donsol, Sorsogon.

Heart-shaped Lake Danao on top of the mountain is also home to tilapia, carp, mudfish, freshwater eel and bangus (milkfish), aside from being surrounded with vegetables and palay (unhusked rice) farms here.

The lake offers an exhilarating environment surrounded with verdant vegetation and is an angler’s haven as big eels, tilapia, carp, mudfish and other fresh water fish abound.
It is a 20-kilometer commute from the town proper here.

An underwater survey conducted on December 10, 1997 indicated that the lake’s deepest portion is 12.7 meters with three different bottom layers.

The first layer with a depth of 0.30 meter is of sand mixed with rocks and boulders—freshwater mussels abound here.

From a depth of 3.0 meters to 7.6 meters, the bottom consists mainly sandy loam and rotten logs and vegetative debris.

The third layer has a depth of 7.57-12.7 meters with silt bottom.

Diosdado Braceno, 54, of Danao village and father of 12 children, said that the peak tabios season is from October to December during which they could catch as much as 4-5 kilos in just a few hours of fishing using gill nets and scoop nets.

Tabios fetches P130 to P150 per kilo in the town market.

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