Burmese Fish in Danger of Extinction

THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON—A Burmese fish, known locally as ngaphayone (Anguilla bengalensis  bengalensis), is in danger of extinction due to increasing exports, particularly to China, where its larvae is also in high demand.

Many Chinese believe that ngaphayone increase blood flow and bestow luck to those who eat them. Ngaphayone are also used in traditional Chinese medicine, said a merchant who exports fishery products to China.

”This fish is a medicinal fish, and it gives strength to men,” he said.

Ngaphayone live in both freshwater and saltwater and spawn in rivers, creeks and tributaries. They breed from June to August.

It is against the law to catch ngaphayone during the breeding period, but the law is difficult to enforce, said a fisheries department worker.

In local markets, the fish sells from 3,500 to 40,000 kyat ($1 equals about 1,200 kyat) per viss, depending on size (1 kilogram is equal to 0.6 viss). In the export market, 1 kilogram sells from $6 to $10. Ngaphayone gain weight at the rate of about 8 grams in 18 months.

“The price of ngaphayone is increasing rapidly because of high demand and low supply” said one trader.

A university biologist said, “This kind of fish breeds one time in its life and may take15 years to breed. After breeding, the fish dies. It has a strange behavior, and it needs to be protected. It is in danger of extinction due to over exploitation and lost of habitat by shrinking rivers and creeks.”

Ngaphoyon, caught around Rangoon, the Irrawaddy delta, Pegu Division and Arakan State, are exported to China through the “105-mile gate” at Muse in northern Burma.

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