DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – True to its name, the Weather Loach or Dojo fish can predict impending bad weather.
The Weather Loach “is very agitated if there is aberration of weather like typhoons or rains,” said Westly Rosario, chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) research center based in this city.
The fish, he noted, is sensitive to barometric pressure, which causes it to become restless before the onset of inclement weather.
The Weather Loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) can also survive long periods in very shallow water or even out of water and tend to be active in the evening due to the cold temperature.
The Dojo is about 13 centimeters long and thrives in rivers and swamps in the Cordilleras. “It’s like an eel but it’s not an eel.”
The Weather Loach was introduced to the country before the Second World War, “along with the so-called Japanese snails, maybe for food purposes of Japanese soldiers. But the Dojo was accepted as a fish species in the Cordilleras because it is cold tolerant,” Rosario said.
He also said that in the past, the Weather Loach was abundant in the Cordilleras and the Japanese set up buying stations in Banaue.
Today, the fish is very popular in Japan and Korea where it can command a price as high as P6,000 per kilo.
“In Korea and Japan, because of the advancement of agriculture, particularly in the use of fertilizer and pesticide, a problem in natural population emerged. In the Philippines, the fish increased in number but it did not last long, also because of fertilizer and pesticide use,” Rosario said in Filipino.
Rosario recounted that when he went to Sagada, he asked the people there about their preferred fish and they said they want catfish and Dojo, but the Dojo decreased in supply.
To address the problem of the lack of sufficient fry for aquaculture, the BFAR research center conducted an experiment to breed Dojo using the technique in catfish breeding and the agency succeeded.
The center then developed the Dojo hatchery protocol in 1999 and in 2002 the hatchery began the production of fry.