Locally known us ‘espada’ or ‘bulung unas’ in the province, the beltfish has become the center of attraction now in barangay Diora-Zinungan as the fisherfolk association here has been supported by the Department of Tourism Regional Office No. 2 to make beltfishing not only their sole means of income but also a new one-of-its-kind experience for tourists.
The largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus) or beltfish is a member of the cutlassfish family, Trichiuridae. This common to abundant species is found in tropical and temperate oceans throughout the world. They are silvery steel blue in color, turning silvery gray after death
Earlier this August, a team from DOT and the Cagayan Tourism Office, in partnership with the local tourism office in this municipality and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), validated and assessed the potential of beltfishing activity as the next big thing to popularize Santa Ana as the ‘Game Fishing Center of the North’.
Recently, another team was gathered for a dry run activity to experience the beltfishing activity and other tourism destinations in the municipality with ‘Your Adventure Paradise’ as its new tourism branding.
During the dry run for Santa Ana Tourism Circuit held on November 9-11, members of the Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing Association demonstrated how they catch belthfish by using a ‘kariti’, a traditional way of catching the said fish.
This fisherman-member of the Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing Association shows his first two catch (R)DOT Regional Director Fanibeth Domingo [3rd from R] together with the members of the Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing association show the beltfish thay have catched during the demonstration activity in August 2021. (Center) Grace Ruiz, community officer IV of CEZA Community Affairs and Development Division.
The Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing Association, composed of at least 60 fishers from the said barangay, is assisted by the CEZA through its Community Affairs and Development Division.
How it started?
According to the Guilbert Perucho, association president, beltfishing is not new at all to them, however, as to the area where they usually catch beltfish, he said it has changed from time to time.
In 2004, Perucho bared that from their usual catching area of two kilometers from the shore, one of their members went farther as much as 10 kilometers to take a chance of getting more catch. True enough, this member according to Perucho didn’t fail as his exploration proved that there are more beltfish in that certain area.
‘Kariti’, THE traditional way of catching the beltfish. (CEZA photo)
From the 10-kilometer zone, the group tried to go as far as 18 kilometers which is now the proposed area for beltfishing activity.
Perucho added that each fisherman can catch at least 100 kilos of beltfish in a daily basis and their catch are usually bought by traders from Metro Manila.
What to expect?
Beltfishing is not measured by the number of fish caught, but rather the challenge and satisfaction that comes with it. If you have had a busy week at the office or in your home, then put in your bucketlist beltfishing. From the shore of Diora-Zinungan, only two tourists are allowed per boat accompanied by two members of the association who will serve as their banca operators at the same their tour guides.
An approximate of one-hour sea travel is expected before reaching the catching area.
As to the safety of the tourists, life vests are provided and a green light from the Philippine Coast Guard is needed before going to the sea. Should there be gale warnings and the weather is not good, the activity will not push through.
Upon reaching the destination, tourists will be taught on how to use the ‘kariti’ as well as the proper way of putting the baits. After the short orientation and demonstration, the tourists may now enjoy catching beltfish.
Usually, the activity lasts for one hour to one and half hour depending on the catch of the tourists.
The tourist’s catch will be theirs and will be cooked by the spouses of the fishermen which will be served during their lunch.
As to the fee to be collected from each tourist, the Santa Ana Tourism Office will still have to finalize it after another coordination meeting with the officers of the association as well as inputs both from CEZA and DOT.
Once the tourism in Santa Ana will be opened to public, Tourism Officer Designate Sheryl Diane Marie Tabag acknowledged that there will be an influx of tourists as the municipality remains to be the top tourist destination in the Cagayan Valley region. The association, according to her, has 30 ready boats and 64 trained members.
For her part, Regional Director Fanibeth Domingo said that the DOT has been in the forefront to help these tourism enterprises and tour operator groups bounce back from the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
The dry run and familiarization tourism circuit tours, according to Domingo, are conducted to assess the readiness of the local government in reopening its attractions to more domestic tourists with minimum health and safety standards in place.
On the other hand, Grace Ruiz, community officer IV of CEZA Community Affairs and Development Division, said that the pandemic did not hinder their office to continue in reaching out to their organized groups.
“Tuluy-tuloy pa naman ang support ng CEZA sa people’s organization lalong-lalo na sa mga community-based enterprises na engaged sa tourism industry dahil alam naman natin na ang Santa Ana is still the top tourist destination in Region 2,” Ruiz said. (MDCT/PIA Cagayan)