Naujan Lake was declared a national park by Presidential Proclamation No. 282 in 1956.

By Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III

As such, it is only open to the public for birth watching, educational tourism, and scientific research. Aside from the migratory birds that overwinter in the lake, indigenous and endemic aquatic species in it such as the mullet or banak (Mugil dussumieri ), bigeye trevally or talakitok (Caranx sexfasciatus ), and the freshwater crocodile or buwaya (Crocodylus mindorensis ) are protected and conserved.

A host of indigenous freshwater fishes including mudfish, goby, and milkfish thrive in Naujan Lake. Exotic fishes like the three-spot gouramy (Trichogaster pectoralis ), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus ), and common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) have been introduced.

While commercial or large-scale fishing is banned in the lake, municipal or subsistence fishing with the use of passive gear such as the gill net is allowed to provide a source of livelihood for the hundreds of small fishers living around the lake.

In our recent visit to Calapan City, the capital of Oriental Mindoro, we were served crispy fried puting biya or white goby (Glossogobius giurus ) for breakfast at the hotel. We were told that the fish was from Naujan Lake and that it is sold in dried form for Php550 per kilo in the retail market. There were six pieces of the fish in our PhP 110 breakfast plate, which came with eggs and rice.

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Split white goby being sun-dried; dried white goby ready for market; a breakfast plate with crispy fried white goby.

During our visit to Naujan Lake, we interviewed Toto Ballila, a fisher of Barangay Bayani. He said that about 30% of his daily catch from the lake using gill nets consists of the white goby. On a good day, he can catch a kilo of the fish working from dusk to dawn. He splits the fish to remove its gills and entrails and then sprinkles about a fourth of a kilo of salt for every three kilos of the fish before drying it under the sun for at least four hours.

It takes three kilos of the fresh fish to produce a kilo of the dried fish. There are about 100 pieces in a kilo of the dried fish. The processed white goby is sold at wholesale prices of Php400-Php500 per kilo.

The white goby is the most abundant and exploited indigenous fish in Naujan Lake. In the literature, it is recorded that the caught fish ranges in weight from 8.8 to 66.3 grams and attains sexual maturity at a total length of 12.5 centimeters. It feeds on small fishes and invertebrates like shrimp, and is believed to breed throughout the year. It is also found in other lakes of the country like Laguna de Bay and Taal Lake.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2015 issue.