It’s Fish Conservation Week! Meet Arayu, the Ivatan gold.
Did you know that for 2 months each year, mataw fisherfolks go out to sea in search of Common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus)?
Locally known to Ivantans as arayu, it is a migratory fish that passes by the inner shores of Batanes during dry seasons. It is widely known in the country as dorado (Spanish for gold), or internationally as mahi-mahi and is a favorite game fish. Arayu inhabits tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans and is highly migratory. They can be found in shallow waters to 85 meters deep and are a prized game and commercial fish worldwide.
Mataw fishers seize the seasonal opportunity of angling arayu, a tradition that is passed on to many generations of Ivatans. Around April and May, an abundance of arayu and several species of flying fish enter the calmer nearshore waters, which makes angling easier. Families move closer to their vanua or port for the duration of this season, leaving behind their farms momentarily. Their daily catch is processed for filleting and drying to extend the shelf life of the fish meant as a reserve during leaner months. These dried goods are distributed among the community after the closure of mataw fishing season, where priority is given to locals, and only the excess is sold to non-Ivatans.
This short time span of traditional fishing has an unintended positive impact on the management of fishing for these migratory species, where the prohibition of commercial fishing and implementation of a closed season allows for the recovery of remaining wild populations in the sea.
What we can learn from this traditional way of fishing is that harvesting from our seas can be sustainable. Science-based management of our natural resources will benefit both the environment and the people who rely on these resources for sustenance. As individuals, we can contribute to protecting our marine resources simply by limiting our waste generation, joining coastal cleanups, and not polluting the environment.
Text and poster by Jasmin Meren of NMP Zoology Division.