Philippines – Cagayan, 15 November 2009
Heiko was invited by BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), the Director Malkolm I. Sarmiento, Jr. to do research on the Philippine freshwater habitats and its fishes. Heiko started in the north-eastern part of Luzon and was kindly assisted by the regional Director Mrs. Jovita P. Ayson.
The first part of Heiko’s research in north-eastern Luzon was in the Pinacouan River (also written Pinacauan) and with the kind help of the Regional BFAR Director Mrs. Jovita P. Ayson it was perfectly organized. After as long drive to Aqugaddan in Peña Blanca, there was a fast boat waiting to take Heiko, his equipment and the helpers up river, into a beautiful region.
It is a gorgeous river with a crystal clear water but very difficult to access and eventually we had to walk, as I wanted to check out also its tributaries.
We walked with all the equipment to the Nababalayan village named after the tribes-people who cultivate corn throughout the entire valley. It is a very small community and all women were washing on the shore of the creek I wanted to research as well (including its affluents).
Unfortunately they had poisoned the creek to catch the shrimp they eat. I had already collected in the main river and found only introduced small Tilapias (T. sparmanni) (left). In the tributary near the village only a diseased Tilapia (right), next to just a few remaining shrimps a nice yellow spotted snail and a freshwater crab (which escaped the poison).
The captain of the community Dante Danao (left) was very cooperative, explained to me why they poison the river. My guide Tony and the friends from Manila, Eric and Jonathan, who came along carrying my equipment, translated and helped all the way (right).
The Nababalayan live from their corn, which covers the entire large valley and have to harvest twice a year, therefore they need to use pesticides, which help to poison the creeks and river as well. Water buffalos are used to pull the plug and the oxcart is their main way of transport.
We walked back without any fish and only in the fast current, where no Tilapia can live, we found with the help of local fisherman the only native species, gobiid fishes, which had survived all the poison, pesticides and the exotic introductions. All other native fishes, which dwelled this beautiful river for millions of years, are history now. We will never know what once lived here…