Ludong or Pacific Salmon-the most expensive fish in the Philippines
The Ludong or Lobed river mullet is a freshwater mullet. While it is claimed to be endemic to Cagayan River and tributaries extending through the watersheds of Cagayan Valley and the Santa-Abra River Systems of Ilocos Sur and Abra in the Philippines, verifiable and reliable sources have listed Celebes, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and Fiji as areas where the lobed river mullet may be also found. It is sometimes called the Pacific Salmon or the President's fish, since only the President and the rich will be able to afford it.
Ludong is herbivorous, eating only the filamentous algae that live on rocks and boulders in and near river rapids.
A mature fish weighs from 0.25 kg to 2 kg and costs P4,000- P5,000 a kilo, making it the most expensive fish in the country. At today's exchange rate that is about $100 to $200 a kilo or around $40 to $80 per lb. It commands a very high price in the market because it is seasonal and difficult to catch and an has an excellent aroma and taste when cooked. Its unique taste makes it one of the most sought-after ingredients in making delicious dishes.
This elusive fish is catadromous in nature; it migrates to the ocean to breed. It swims to salt water to spawn from October to December and returns to upstream ponds after. It undergoes upstream migration during December, January, and February, and this coincides with the “ipon-run phenomenon’ wherein different species of fish fry also undergo upstream migration. After the ludong had undergone downstream migration, it can be caught in Cagayan River and tributaries.
Ludong is close to being an endangered species, considering its threatened state in the Northern Luzon waters. In fact, information gathered from fish vendors in Cagayan showed that the volume of ludong catch has been tremendously decreasing annually. Thus this week the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) issued a 3-month moratorium in the fishing of this river mullet.
In 2006, BFAR launched Sagip Ludong, a wide fish-hunt in Aparri for 60 pieces of live ludong. The hunt was conducted during the first half of October because it provides the best opportunity to catch live ludong, which seasonally appears two to six times only in a year from October to November.
Another expensive and rare fish in Marinduque is the Bingao. It is a big ocean fish belonging to the red snapper family. It is very tasty and has no fishy smell when cooked. It taste like pork or eel. Last year I paid 400 pesos per kilo from a fisherman neighbor here in Amoingon, Boac. A lottery is held by the fish vendors if one fish is available for sale to avoid fist fights in the market place. At least this 400 pesos/kilo price is affordable, since I will never pay 4000 pesos a kilo for a fish, unless I won the lottery or I become President or someone treats me with a ludong feast.