Saturday, August 4, 2018

Padas, a rare specialty but ecologically unfriendly

Ecologically we are destroying the species every time we patronize padas bagoong. One kilo of padas probably amounts to several hundreds of individual fish that potentially mature in six months time reaching up to one kilo apiece. The mature padas is malaga (Ilk) or samaral, one of the tastiest fish in the world.  It is prized by the Chinese in celebration of the Chinese New Year. To Filipinos - and other Asians - serving samaral during Holy Week and fiestas is a status symbol. The price of samaral in the market is twice or thrice that of ordinary fish.
Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog

Padas is the fry of spinefoot or rabbitfish, locally known as Malaga or samaral (right), mainly of the species Siganus canaliculatus and S. concatenates and S corallinus and S. spinus. 

The white spotted siganid Siganus canaliculatus (Park, 1797), locally known as “danggit”, is one of the most important and heavily exploited fish species in the country, with adults and juveniles often targeted for boneless production, and post-larvae sizes (padas) for fish paste or bagoong, a popular condiment. Right, dried fish market of danggit, dilis (anchovies), alamang (small shrimps)
Padas is the fry of spinefoot or rabbitfish, locally known as Malaga or samaral. mainly of the species Siganus canaliculatus and S. concatenates and S corallinus and S. spinus. These species occur in schools in coastal areas around rocky and corals feeding on phytoplankton and browsing on seaweeds and seagrasses. They grow up to 280 mm. They tolerate a wide range of salinity that they enter rivers or go down to the open sea.

Spinefoots or rabbit fishes are members of the Siganidae family. There is only a single genus, Siganus with 32 member-species worldwide. They are found in the Indo-Pacific and eastern Mediterranean oceans, living in shallow coastal waters to a depth of 50 meters. They can be recognized based on pelvic fins with 2 spines (one strong inner and one outer spine, with 3 soft rays in between). Spinefoots are diurnal herbivores that feed on benthic algae. They can be found living in pairs or in school of up to 15 members.

Caution in handling the fish based on the author’s personal experience: The samaral has very sharp and venomous spine on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins.  The spines can cause a very sharp pain, bleed and numbness (especially when the fish is alive), but they are not fatal. Handling of the fish with hand is done by holding the gill covers, or the widespread dorsal fin.  In this way the fish becomes docile and normally does not attempt to struggle.
When passing through Urdaneta and Villasis towns of Pangasinan you find padas bagoong in bottles sold on the shelf or by peddlers. Sometimes the small fish is beautifully arranged in rows covering the entire bottle. How skillfully and patiently is the art done considering how small the fry is. Those familiar with the product prefer seasoned bagoong  over a newly made one. Like wine, seasoned bagoong is better. They know it if the fish are well settled in the bottle with an appreciable amount of patis appearing as a distinct layer on top. On the other hand, the patis of raw bagoong is at the bottom or middle of the bottle, and if there is too much of it, they know that the product is diluted with water.

Next time a vendor offers padas, think of the tiny fish as the potential tasty malaga or samaral which grows up to a kilo apiece. Harvesting the fry (padas) and its juvenille (danggit) is an opportunity loss for the fish to increase in number and maintain a stable population level, and to grow fully and become affordable to the ordinary consumer. Harvesting of padas and danggit should be regulated, if not banned.  Conservation of this threatened species starts with us.~

Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, Internet; Conlu P V 1986 FishesGuide to Philippine Flora and Fauna Series.

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