MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) will meet with Taiwanese and Japanese seafood processors to encourage them to invest in eel processing in the country.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he would be meeting with Taiwanese and Japanese seafood firms in Taiwan on Dec. 2 – 5 to encourage them to put up processing plants for eel in the Philippines.
“I also want to observe their trading system. These are private investors,” Alcala told reporters.
“We already have small eel processing businesses here but I want the industry to be big because we have the source of elvers and we are already seeing results from the export prohibition that we imposed two years ago,” he added.
In 2012, the DA reinstated the ban on the export of elvers (juvenile eel) to stop the rapid decline of the specie.
The ban on the export of elvers is enforced under Fisheries Administrative Order 242, signed by Alcala on April 10 2012.
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Violation of the ban carries a penalty of eight years imprisonment, confiscation of catch or a fine equivalent to double the export value of the same, and revocation of fishing or export permit.
Elvers are gathered in riverbanks and shores through the use of nets. These are then shipped to Manila for export to various Asian countries such as Japan and Korea where these are enjoyed as a delicacy.
Smoked eel fillets, for instance, sell for P500 to P1,000 per 100 grams in Tokyo restaurants.
In the Philippines, eel is particularly abundant in Cagayan but Alcala said he has instructed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to identify other strategic grow out areas in the country’s three major islands.
“We are also asking them to determine the size of the investment involved for this,” he said. “So we are opening this industry.”
Alcala said eel is a resilient specie, making it feasible for large-scale processing.