21 Apr2010


These fish may not know it, but they are in the final stages before they take their big trip to some glitzy restaurant in Hong Kong, Macau or Shanghai in a cold induced daze. They will not only ride a small freight plane but a wide-bodied jet as well, and they will beat some 90% of their human countrymen out of the borders of the Philippines. I did a feature on these live fish for export consolidators in Coron before, here, and they may have come from fish “motels” prior to that, here. On our most recent trip to Coron, we went to yet another fish exporter so that Mrs. MM and the Teen would have a chance to see them for themselves. This time around, they had lots of fish in the various holding tanks, and there were huge blocks of ice floating and melting away in each tank. Apparently, the fish lulled into a daze in the very cool water, before being packed with lots of sea water and oxygen for transport to cities abroad.


At somewhere around PHP2,000-2,500+ per kilo for just the right size of live lapu-lapu of only a few varieties (the red ones here are primo) at this point in the supply chain, these are VERY HIGH VALUE export items. The fishermen get a whopping PHP1,200-1,500 per kilo so they too want to catch these fish carefully and handle them gingerly until they get to the consolidators. It’s no wonder that live fish in Hong Kong can sometimes fetch a whopping USD120-200 per kilo! These particular fish were a few hours away from packing and transport to Manila. The guys at this company were nice enough to allow us access and to take these photos. This was only one of several dozen holding tanks in the warehouse. And surprisingly, these fish were bigger than I had expected, as the 1-kilo size is considered the gold standard…


The fish were already a bit sluggish in this cool bath, and it was easy to pick them up or catch them in large plastic containers. As I have mentioned before, I was both amazed by this sight and also saddened by the details of this type of business… More on those thoughts in my previous post on the same matter. If you ever get a chance to visit Coron, and you want to see one of these fish consolidators, just get your tricycle driver to take you to a factory and finagle your way in for a quick look around.



  1. Jade186 says:

    I wish I did this trip when I was in Coron around two years ago…would have been very interesting.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 5:18 am


  2. Notice: Undefined variable: oddcomment in /home/marketman/marketmanila.com/wp-content/themes/marketmanila-v2/comments.php on line 33
  3. Hapuka says:

    I used to work for a plane charter company in Manila that hauls live Lapu-lapu from Palawan to Manila. I’ve talked to some of the exporters and fishermen from Palawan as well, and it is very sad to learn from them that those Lapu-lapu are caught using cyanide and not thru hand lines or nets. This is export business generates a large amount of sums, and for sure there are some politicos who benefits from it. That is why everyone is turning a blind eye regarding the cyanide issue. (Remember that everyone needs to secure a clearance/permit from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development = from the fishermen , suppliers , exporters up to the plane company that hauls them to Manila). The use of cyanide contributes to the death of the coral reefs around Palawan.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 6:02 am

  4. Ehba says:

    I have seen this fish in a small municipality in Quezon Province, did not know it was Lapu-lapu. Was… because they were not alive, they were being sold in the wet market for P500 per kilo. I did not buy any nor did my cousin, I guess it was too expensive for them. Live shrimps are sold for P300 per kilo and very fresh huge mackerel are below P100, so buying these Lapu-Lapu are just for the ëlite”they said.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 6:40 am

  5. junb says:

    If Fisherman caught it from open sea definitely not sustainable and since it is for export demand will definitely exceed supply. Again its not the fishermans fault but those from HK who pay huge amount :)

    Apr 21, 2010 | 7:14 am

  6. millet says:

    a pinoy scientist has developed a way of making fish “sleep” during transport, and not in water, too. but that’s not the point of this comment.

    it’s sad that the tropical fish trade continues unregulated to this day. i have no problems with HK or japanese people enjoying our fish, but the law should be enforced strictly. i think we have enough laws covering the harvest, transport and trade of our resources; it is always in the implementation of these laws where things fall through the cracks. i know that lapu-lapu can be farmed successfully in fish cages for commercial purposes. wait, MM, couldn’t these beauties have come from a lapu-lapu farm? i know there are some in palawan.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 8:43 am

  7. Marketman says:

    millet they have holding cages in Palawan, I did a post on them before, but the lapu-lapu’s are still caught in the wild rather than raised from fry. Junb, yes, demand is strong for this type of fish. Ehba, lapulap in Manila is usually PHP400+ per kilo.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 9:05 am

  8. meh says:

    The more i learn about marine environmental issues and how unsustainable fisheries can be, the less seafood I can eat with a clear conscience… sarap pa naman ng seafood…. siiiigh….

    Apr 21, 2010 | 11:34 am

  9. Blaise says:

    For some reason, this post makes me sad…

    Apr 21, 2010 | 11:39 am

  10. millet says:

    yes, blaise, it made me sad, too.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 12:32 pm

  11. lettucedude says:

    Makes me sad as well…

    Apr 21, 2010 | 10:00 pm

  12. Franky says:

    sorry to seem so gauche, but what does lapu-lapu taste like? and what of the mercury levels in the lapu-lapu, don’t they have they have one of the highest concentrations like top-tier predators?

    Apr 21, 2010 | 10:33 pm

  13. Ehba says:

    Going to Pinas this May and I am craving for our local seafood, as I have been watching the Food Channel – seafood episode. I am saving my money – instead of running to Red Lobster or Cajun Resto that specialize in crabs and lobsters, I will just wait till I get my seafood gusto in our local wet market stalls.

    Apr 21, 2010 | 11:32 pm

  14. quiapo says:

    How things have changed!! When I was young, you could have lapu lapu every day (about 50 years ago), and people were divided into those who preferred apahap and those who preferred lapu lapu. I was in the apahap camp, and fortunatelly it is popular in Australia from domestic stocks (it is also farmed). Lapu lapu however is rarely seen, and I have never tried it here. I un

    Apr 22, 2010 | 7:08 am

  15. adam says:

    Hi MM – please don’t get me started again…!! Ok, I have to say a little bit: using the word ‘caught’ sums up images of fishermen using nets or waiting patiently with their fishing rod on the side of a reef using ancient cunning and traditional skills passed down through generations to catch the fish. Not so in this instance – the men dive down on to the reef – usually using just homemade masks and snorkels – and spray everything close to the fish with cyanide, this merely stuns the larger fish but kills just about everything else in sight (corals and all). This is an admittedly dangerous (many of the divers suffer from pressure injuries) and poorly paid occupation but it does irreparable long term harm to the environment. So young men get injured and our reefs and fish life are rapidly diminished so that wealthy people overseas can spend ridiculous sums of money on eating rare fish. Crazy world. Lets talk about Bear’s paws and Rhino horn next!

    Apr 22, 2010 | 10:31 am

  16. adam says:

    Sorry. Am a bit grumpy – it’s been a long week!

    Apr 22, 2010 | 10:46 am

  17. Marketman says:

    adam, I am totally with you on the cyanide issue. If Dept. of Fisheries folks and local government can rove cyanide usage, they should shut down these exporters. I can’t STAND the thought of cyanide in the sea, fish, etc. Folks caught using cyanide should be fed it in just below lethal quantities.

    Apr 22, 2010 | 12:48 pm

  18. Joy says:

    Those fish are beautiful.

    Apr 24, 2010 | 1:10 am

  19. Eileen says:

    This post somehow made me sad…

    Apr 24, 2010 | 11:14 am

  20. Ben@thegoldcoast says:

    I agree with the previous comments that this post really makes you feel sad. In addition to that, I feel disturbed and infuriated by the lack of will power from the government agencies who are suppose to monitor these. Also, I can’t help but get pissed at those exporters (& local fisherfolks) who still use cyanide (I’m sure karma will catch up to them soon). Though I’m proud of RP’s seascapes, I just have to pin my hopes on the Great Barrier Reef, seeing how much people here are so adamant at taking care of it. Hopefully, a time when Philippine reefs are all dead wastelands is just a fragment of our imagination……

    Apr 25, 2010 | 11:10 am

  21. michelle keh says:

    I hope that these fish aren’t harvested using cyanide. It’s just isn’t healthy for everyone, the corals, the consumers, and even the fishermen who rely on the bounty of the ocean. Sigh. Believe it or not, even in the coastline of Ilocos Sur, we can hear booming sounds on the seashore. As it turned out, there were fishermen using dynamite fishing. Ironically, we were with a top local official at the time. Can you say gross negligence?!?!

    Apr 25, 2010 | 2:51 pm

  22. mm says:

    fast facts:
    1. there are 2000 plus holding cages for red lapulapu (locally called “suno”) in northern palawan alone. these cages proliferated simply because the local fishers have to rear their suno first before they can be sold in marketable and more pricey sizes. point is: most of the suno caught from the wild now are undersized, depriving the species of the chance to reproduce first. especially since female “suno” converts into male species upon reaching more than one a kg body weight, which is also the dest and most pricey size in the market.

    2. there are more than 3,000 suno fishers/cagers in northern palawan, most of them marginal fishermen.

    3. regulations on suno trade are still hazy at the moment, meanwhile, the demand is growing.

    Apr 25, 2010 | 11:37 pm

  23. Richard says:

    One of the very common methods of harvesting lapu-lapu and other reef fishes is liba-liba fishing. It’s much more profitable than individuals spraying cyanide.
    You have a boat (or two) with a large (200m long) gill net, fronting the reef. Then you literally scare the fish out of the reef and into the gill net, using one upper rope with streamers, and another lower one with rocks.
    You can tell these boats because they have long booms on either side, making them look like waterbugs. And they’re very common.

    Apr 27, 2010 | 7:00 pm

  24. renee says:

    you are so witty marketman. i love ur blog so much; its so engaging and entertaining as well

    Apr 28, 2010 | 5:29 am

  25. grace says:

    Lapu-lapu are raised in fish pens in a natural small bay area in Mandaue City. They are easily caught by nets and there is no need for cyanide. How can you get sustainable and large numbers of Lapu-lapu is reliable numbers for export market if these were caught in the wild? These are farmed fish, raised in natural waters not inside tanks. Also catching fish using nets, or hook and line will injure the fish and they die . Live fish must be gently handled, must have no injuries like around the mouth, and must have all their scales intact. When they reach other countries they still look nice.

    Apr 30, 2010 | 4:49 pm

  26. meh says:

    grace – lapu-lapu can be ‘farmed’ in the sense that immature/smaller lapu-lapu can be raised in ponds. however the baby fish (fingerlings) are still caught from the wild. same is true for most of the bangus available in the Philippines. since the fishery is still based on baby fish from the wild, given the volume that’s harvested it is not really sustainable. bow.

    May 1, 2010 | 8:49 am

  27. suzanne erandio says:

    wow,, i like lapu lapu so much!!! the fisherman or ”tindero” is not afraid to touch that fish

    Aug 29, 2010 | 3:52 pm

  28. JM says:

    On the other hand, beacuse of these exporters, Philippines has been (at least in their respective market) one of the leading exporters of Lapu-lapu in Asia. Isn’t it nice that in this instance, we are not THE importer but rather we are the exporter? And since the most expensive size is the large size, that means fishermen will most likely want to catch the large sized ones. Lower than that won’t do good for them, so they better save the small fishes to grow. Just a thought! There are still lil lapu lapus still swimming in Philippine oceans. But I agree that cyanide fishing disrupts marine ecosystem and i hope the fishermen use nets to catch these fishes. If the gov continues private live fishing, they better think of a natural way to stun these fishes and educate fishermen or marine export will decline. In that way everyone will be happy, including mother nature.

    And for those who abhor the idea of live fishing (be it catching by net) most likely when you buy lapu lapu in markets in manila, you are probably buying the “live for export” lapu lapu who died while being transported to Manila.

    Nov 11, 2010 | 11:31 am

  29. oliver says:

    We sell/ supply natural wild live grouper fry. wholesale price, please contact phone 09102115116. Email; myguxi@yahoo.com / we sell also eel fry

    Sep 19, 2011 | 3:45 pm


Market Manila Home · Topics · Archives · About · Contact · Links · RSS Feed

site design by pixelpush

Market Manila © 2004 - 2021