By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

During the last few weeks of June, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) acquired golden varieties of the Philippine national fish bangus, or milkfish in English, from a fishpond in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. 

Originally cared for by Rommel Felomino, the golden bangus was first spotted in a fishpond which Felomino rented in Barangay Carael to culture non-bangus fishes. It was unclear how the rare fish ended up in the pond. 

The fish measured around one foot long and weighed about 800 grams. Felomino shared in reports that he first mistook the rare bangus to be a koi. 

Eventually, the golden bangus was turned over to the BFAR for research purposes and for it to be well cared for. 

Several days later, another golden bangus was donated to the institution from a fishpond owner from Barangay Caloocan Sur, Binmaley, Pangasinan. It is said to weigh around 750 grams, lighter by 50 grams than the one before it. 

The golden bangus is a rare sight among the common bangus or milkfish, which are a species of fish in the Chanidae family. It mainly lives throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Usually, it is described as a typical silvery-colored fish with an elongated, torpedo-shaped body. On average, bangus measure about three feet long but can also reach nearly six feet in length.

Westley Rosario, the BFAR-Dagupan center chief, explained to various reports that the color of the golden bangus may be attributed to an abnormality in its pigmentation similar to albinism found in other animals.  

Second attempt in breeding and preservation

The first golden bangus that the BFAR acquired was also from Pangasinan and it spawned back in 2012. Unfortunately, Rosario said that the bangus died due to stress despite being relocated for preservation purposes. 

He said in reports that they noticed that the first golden bangus isolated itself from the other bangus who were placed in the same tank.

A reason for this, according to the BFAR-Dagupan center chief, is that the rare fish was bullied by its regular-looking companions or it felt different than those around it. 

With two new specimens on hand, BFAR is implementing stricter rules for the fish. One of which is imposing a quarantine where visitors aren’t allowed to view the fish to avoid stress and repetition of their early attempts with the first golden bangus. 

Presently, the fish are thriving together, isolated, in a new reservoir. 

Rosario notes that the fish seem to be comfortable in their new environment since they have retained their lustrous golden color and are moving about energetically. This may be due to the fact that they are both the same kind, thus keeping each other company. 

Both fish are only a year old and need to reach five-years-old before BFAR can identify their sexual maturity. 

The BFAR center chief shared that golden bangus are considered good luck charms by many. Ultimately, breeding the species could help scientists and fishermen understand the biology behind the specific fish and how to properly raise them. 

Fishermen and pond owners are encouraged by the BFAR to turn over any golden bangus they come across so they can be provided with proper care and eventually multiply in numbers.

For more information, visit Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).