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Description and Rationale


     The milkfish is a fish that is very important in the majority of Filipinos’ lives. It provides food for Filipinos and is also commercially valuable for the local fishing industries. This fish is enjoyed by both upper-class and lower-class Filipinos, and can be bought for a relatively cheap price, so it provides lots of money in fishing industries. However, many other fishes like Tilapia have all the benefits that the milkfish have, and also produce more profit than the milkfish. In order for people to profit from the milkfish, they need to find other unique benefits that only milkfish can give. Through those benefits, the local fishermen and the people involved in the jobs related to them, such as fish vendors, will be able to profit more. If their profits increase, these people will be able to have a better standard of life. Some of the possible creative profits from the milkfish, with an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages for each, will be evaluated in this paper.

     What are possible solutions to the problems that are associated with the milkfish? What are the ways to make Filipinos more aware of the milkfish’s needs? Who do I need to interview to get some information on this fish? What organization in the Philippines can help the survival of milkfish? Are there predators that will affect their survival rate? Are there environmental factors that will affect their lifespan?

     There are several reasons the milkfish needs to be protected. First, the milkfish’s genus is very small, containing only one species (Chanos Chanos-milkfish) worldwide. Another reason this species needs to be protected is because it is critically important to the fishing industry and for the survival of many lower-class Filipinos. Also, it is the national fish of the Philippines, so it needs special attention from Filipinos. Moreover, this fish provides a job where people get employed in a manufacturing industry for fish products, debone (take out the bones) the milkfish, and sell it in the big market place.

     A future benefit of the milkfish could be to use it as an underwater tourism attraction for foreigners. The milkfish can grow to a maximum of 1.8 meters and look like sharks, but it is tame, so people could swim with a group of them. However, the clearest, identified benefits of the milkfish are to the fishing industry and providing cheap but nutritious food for Filipino people.

 The initial purpose of this project will be to research the biology of the milkfish deeply and factors related to its survival. This research will occur through a search of the literature as well as firsthand observations in the marketplace, and coordinating interviews with fish vendors. Brochures or posters will be made after this research. It is hoped that through this research, the local people could understand the importance of the milkfish and start their own conservation efforts.

 ☜ milkfish

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Common Names and Synonyms

     Chanos Chanos is also known as the milkfish in many countries, including: Australia, Indonesia, USA, and in Vietnam. This fish is also a national symbol of the Philippines, and it is called bangus. In Hindi, this fish is called Palai-meen.



Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata (animals with notochord)

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

Order: Gonorynchiformes (descent snout shaped)

Family: Chanidae (anchovy)

Genus: Chanos (milkfish)

Species: C. chanos (milkfish)

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Morphology and Physical Description

     The milkfish can grow to a maximum length of 1.8 meters, but most of the time, it is about 1 meter in length. Its body is generally symmetrical (balanced) and is streamlined, with 2 dorsal spines and 13~17 soft-ray-fins. It also has 2 anal spines, 8~10 anal soft rays, and 46 vertebrae. Its body looks somewhat compressed, and it has a small mouth without teeth. It has 4 branchiostegal rays (long, curved bones just below the operculum- gill cover), one dorsal fin, and falcate pectoral fins (which are sickle-shaped fins situated just behind the head and help control the direction of movement). Its body color is olive green, with silvery scales, and dark-colored fins. Internally, the milkfish is composed of many tiny bones.



Getting Food

     The milkfish is overall herbivorous, because it does not have any teeth. It nibbles on small plankton, algae, diatoms, and plants. It also often enters into shallow areas to find food, and sometimes eats small invertebrates or fish, while it tries to nibble on algae, and plants.  When this fish is farmed in the fish pen, due to the lack of food, it starts eating the eggs and the larvae that are in the fish pen. So when the milkfish grows up, the manager of the fish pen takes out the adult fish to protect the younger fish.

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     The milkfish mates through external fertilization, so at night, the female milkfish deposits a spawn of a maximum of 7 million eggs. These eggs float in the open sea near shore. For about 2~3 weeks, eggs and larvae stay pelagic (dormant). Then, the hatched larvae seek out clear, coastal, estuarine waters with temperature around 23°C, 10~32 salinity, and lots of planktons. It also moves into the sea when the time comes for it to reproduce. The spawning of eggs in the Philippines is done from April to August, in the hottest season of the Philippines.


Environmental Factors

     The milkfish lives within the depth range of 0 ~ 30 m in tropic areas and areas with a temperature range of 15~ 43°C. The larvae can live and grow in water as hot as 32°C. It usually stays near the bottom of the sea (demersal), but it can also feed at the surface of the sea. Occasionally, it travels to the shallow part of the sea, to find food.

     There are several disease organisms that may use the milkfish as a host. These parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.) include Anchor worm disease, Genolinea Infestation Parasitic infestations, and Caligus Infestation 4 Parasitic infestations


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Origin and Distribution

     The milkfish lives in the tropics, 46°N ~ 39°S, and 19°e ~ 90°w. This species is native to these latitudes, and has not been reported living anywhere else. This fish can survive and thrive in a variety of tropical environments. In the Philippines, the western coastal area is the main area where milkfish populates. The milkfish, in the Philippines, is found mostly in Visayas, around the coast of Tuguegarao, Banaue, Manila Bay, Mindoro, Boracay, Iloilo, Samar, Leyte, and Cebu.


Importance to People

     The milkfish creates a commercially valuable industry for the Filipino fisherman. It also provides cheap but nutritious food for many people in the Philippines and is sometimes used as bait in fishing. To the fishermen, it is a great source of food and money. In many ways, the milkfish provides a great help to the people living in the Philippines. It is also made into a fish food, by grinding up the inedible parts for humans (head and intestines) and making them into flakes to be served as a food for other fish. Moreover, due to its boniness, people have trouble eating this fish. Therefore, there is a job where people get employed in a manufacturing industry and debone (take out the bones) the milkfish, and sell it in the market place, well covered and frozen. For these reasons, the milkfish is critically important both to the fisherman and people of all classes in the Philippines


Survivability and Endangered Status

     The milkfish is not very rare, but it has very low resilience, and the population doubling time takes 4.5 ~ 14 years, which is a long time in the marine kingdom. Additionally, large-scale artificial breeding of this fish has not been successful so far, and seed fish are still obtained from natural reproduction. This fish’s sexual maturity is reached late in life, and it is difficult to provoke matured milkfish to spawn in captivity. So, the population of this fish cannot be increased artificially like many other fishes that are found in the Philippines. The milkfish’s genus is very small, containing only one species (Chanos Chanos-milkfish) worldwide and the other species in that genus have became extinct, and so there is a great chance for this fish to also become extinct.



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Potential Solutions

      How beneficial is the milkfish to humans? It is clear that the milkfish is beneficial to most Filipinos in some ways. The milkfish is a cheap source of nutrition, can be used as a fish bait, and is a great source of money for the fishermen. However, many other fishes like Tilapia have all the benefits that the milkfish have, and also produce more profit than the milkfish. In order for people to profit from the milkfish, they need to find other unique benefits that only milkfish can give. Through those benefits, the local fishermen and people involved in the jobs related to them, such as fish vendors will be able to profit more. Also, if the profits increase, these people will be able to have a better standard of life. Below are some of the possible creative profits from the milkfish with an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages for each.


Possibility 1 Fish balls (My Action Step)

     Young milkfish are grown in the fishery. Some of them are caught and are sold to the markets, but the rest of the fish stay in the fishery and grow in size. When they become adults, they start eating the eggs and the larvae that are in the fishery. “To prevent them from eating up the eggs which are in the fishery, people either take those mature fish out from the pen or make them into fish balls.” (From the interview with Ariel in Binangonan Fish Port). This is the step for making the fish balls:


Materials needed-


1 milkfish

1/2 c (cup). chopped onions

1/4 c. chopped parsley

1 1/2 c. soft white bread crumbs

1 egg

Salt and pepper






1. Steam the milkfish.

2. Chop up the vegetables into fine pieces.

3. Flake the meat of the steamed fish with a fork.

4. Put all the flaked meats and vegetables in a bowl with bread crumbs and an egg and mix them well.

5. Add flours to the mixture.

6. Add some salt (about half spoon).

7. Add some pepper (about quarter spoon).

8. Mix everything well.

9. Mold the mixture into a small ball, by scooping half spoon full of the mixtures.

10. Fill the bottom of the pan with oil.

11. Put the molded mixture into the pan.

12. Fry the balls until they are golden brown. 




     When I was done, I took this to the kids who were playing outside.  There were two kids playing outside. When I told them to taste my finished product, they gladly took a bite, and they said, “Masarap.” Then, when I went back inside, about nine kids came ringing on our doorbell, saying that they wanted to eat as well. My plan to make tasty milkfish fish balls succeeded.















1. The process of making fish balls is easy, and can be done very quickly.

2. By cooking the adult milkfish into fish balls, fishermen benefit, for they can profit out of a fish that they usually send outside their fisheries.

3. This fish can be a great protein source for the poor communities, including the fishermen’s families.

4. The fishermen can also provide poor local people with foods to sell.

5. The adult milkfish is huge, so lots of meat can be obtained and made into fish balls.

6. The fish balls are delicious. I cooked fish balls at home and gave them to the street kids just outside my house, to taste them, but they were so delicious that they ate them all. So I have none left to bring to class.




1. The adult milkfish is not very commonly caught inside the fishery. The fishermen cannot solely rely on making fish balls for their living, for this fish is found only once in a while.

2. There is no proof that the fish balls which the fishermen make are healthy. This does not necessarily mean that the fish balls which the fishermen make are unclean, but that the chemicals in the seasoning which they put inside to make the fish ball taste good, could contain monosodium glutamate (a type of chemical that causes cancer and skin atopy).

3. The kids that tasted the fish balls wanted to eat more, so they were banging on the gate of our house with more friends. We couldn’t cook enough, so they were unhappy because they liked them so much.







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Possibility 2 Underwater Tourism

     Nowadays, more and more people are choosing their tourist site where they can interact with animals such as dolphins. If swimming with the dolphins in the sea can be quite thrilling and entertaining to some tourists, then swimming with the grown up milkfish can be entertaining also. This underwater tourism would aim at the foreigners who love to experience thrills. The tourists can be allowed to scuba dive next to the adult milkfish and interact with them.




1. It would be a great tourist attraction for people who want to have a chance to swim with a fish that resembles a shark.

2. It cannot harm the tourists, because this fish does not have any teeth and are herbivorous.

3. If this tourist attraction were focused on the foreigners, it would create a lot of money for the tourism industry.

4. The shops in the area of the tourist attraction would profit a lot.

5. This tourism would not require brutal slaughtering of the milkfish. Also, this tourism would not harm the environment, so it is an ecotourism. The milkfish and the environment are protected because, the tourism company will do anything in their power to keep the milkfish population healthy.




1. There is no proof that this can work out well, for there is no guarantee that a lot of people would be interested in the milkfish when they can swim with animals like dolphins.

2. Some fish swim too fast for the ecotourists to swim with them.


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Agbayani, Eli. “Common Names List.” FishBase. 16 Jan. 2007. Common Names of Chanos chanos. 6 May 2007



Agbayani, Eli. “Predators.” FishBase. 16 Jan. 2007. Organisms Preying on Chanos chanos. 6 May 2007 



Ariel. Personal Interview. 1 May 2007.


Bagarinao, Teodora. “Chanos chanos – Species Summary.” FishBase. 16 Jan. 2007. Search FishBase. 6 May 2007



Hoover, John P. “chanos chanos.” hawaiisfishes.com. hawaiisfishes.com. 6 May 2007



Luna, Susan M. “Diseases Summary List.” FishBase. 19 Oct. 1990. List of diseases for Chanos chanos. 6 May 2007



Luna, Susan M. “Reproduction Summary.” FishBase. 16 Jan. 2007. Reproduction of Chanos chanos. 6 May 2007



“Milkfish-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia. 2 May 2007. Wikipedia. 6 May 2007



Perschbacher, Peter. "Chanidae." University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Family: Chanidae. 6 May 2007



Tracey. Personal Interview. 1 May 2007.



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