Looking for the freshwater goby

By Marites Villamor Ilano |December 18,2015 - 02:34 AM
The  Sicyopus cebuensis used to thrive in Cebu rivers. (seriouslyfish.com)

The Sicyopus cebuensis used to thrive in Cebu rivers. (seriouslyfish.com)

Cebu  fish  no longer found in Naga river; candidate for extinct species

Small fish  that used to thrive in clean rivers of  the City of Naga in south Cebu are feared to have become extinct, conservation advocates said.

The Sicyopus cebuensis, a freshwater goby endemic to the Naga River Basin, is being considered for inclusion in the list of extinct species in the country, the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. said.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which has jurisdiction over freshwater fish, is  conducting a stock assessment of the country’s marine and freshwater species.

Noel C. Barut, interim deputy director of the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, said he was not sure whether the Sicyopus cebuensis is part of the survey.

“At the moment, the National Stock Assessment Program is focusing on marine species. However, starting this year, we already included freshwater species but in selected areas only like in the

Cordillera rivers, Taal Lake and, I think, the staff in Butuan has started to assess freshwater species in lakes in their area,” Barut said in an e-mail to Cebu Daily News.

A check with the BFAR regional office in Cebu also showed that the assessment is focused on marine species.

Not much is known about this freshwater goby.

It is  classified as “data-deficient” in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List because of insufficient information to evaluate the conservation status on the species.

Lisa Paguntalan, executive director of PBCFI, said the Fisheries Administrative Order of 2010 has not listed the species under conservation protection.

“So it is important that within this updating (of the List of Threatened Species in the Philippines), information on this species will be added so conservation management can be implemented,” she said.

Paguntalan said the Sicyopus cebuensis is in the priority list of threatened species identified by the foundation, which is implementing the Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Program for all threatened and endemic species of Cebu.

At present, she said the foundation is working closely with aquatic biologists and conservation groups to generate and validate information on the freshwater goby and its habitat.

“With reliable information on the field, we will be able to recommend conservation measures needed for the species,” she said.

“We have to exhaust possibilities by conducting an island-wide search for the species in partnership with local experts and field aquatic biologists,” she added.

Paguntalan said the local government and community play vital roles in conserving the freshwater goby and keeping its habitat, the rivers, clean.

“Who else can protect these species if not them?” she said.

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