A Note On Fish Names In The Philippines

It can be quite difficult and confusing trying to figure out the correct name of a fish you catch here.  Here is a little info on fish names and on why it is such a task;

Linguistic Diversity – The Philippines is a country composed of more than 7,000 islands.  There are 8 major languages spoken throughout the country  (Cebuano, Bikol, Hiligaynon, Tagalog, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Waray, and Pangasinan) and there are many distinct dialects of those languages.  Each language and many times dialects have their own and often distinct name for a particular fish.  A Caranx ignobilis (Giant Trevally) is known as a Talakitok to a Tagalog speaking person and as a Mamsa to a Visayan.  Depending on the region you are in when you catch a particular fish you will hear a different name.  We list the English names and the scientific names here on Fishing the Philippines because the names of fish are more standardized.

A Lack of Awareness – Another reason why learning the correct name of a fish can be difficult here is due to the fact that much of the population here knows little of the diversity of fish species found here in the Philippines.  Most people will know the names of the fish they directly come in contact with; Fish they buy to eat or fish raised in ponds or lakes nearby.  That is why one of our goals here on Fishing the Philippines is to show the diversity of species found here and to teach an awareness and appreciation for these fish.

Incorrect Naming – Another problem when determining a fish’s name here is when people tell you what they think the fish is.  Often this means that you will be getting the name of a fish that this fish reminds the person of.  We have found that local fishermen and fish vendors are able to give the more accurate names of fish species found in various regions.

Introduced Species – This creates a unique problem as well because these fish do not have local names.  The local communities create names for these fish which can also lead to confusion.  The name Black Mass or Black Mask is a name used in parts of Laguna to refer to the Largemouth Bass (a species introduced to some lakes from America).  It however is also used for some invasive species of carp such as bighead carp and silver carp.


Our task – Fishing the Philippines was started because we noticed a lack of information when it came to fish and fishing here in the Philippines.  Our goal is to teach conservation and appreciation of the wealth that we have teaming in the water here in the Philippines.


How you can help –  If you know the local names of the fish we post please let us know.  We would like our site to be a comprehensive resource for sport fishing and you can help be a part of that.  Also feel free to contribute to our fish species list.  You can do that by sending us pictures and information about fish you have caught here.  We are also glad to promote and share information regarding fishing events, conservation projects and other educational programs involving fish.


Posted on September 15, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Where in particular in the Philippines that there is a strong concentration of surgeon fish , Is that accessible to students who wishes to learn more about this particular fish species?

    • Dan,
      Surgeon Fish are common throughout the islands here but I can’t say for sure where there are large concentrations of them. May I know for what purpose the study is and how you are going about studying them? Will you snorkel and scuba dive to research them, or collect specimens from local fish markets, etc.? Where also are you based? I scuba dove and snorkeled all around the country it is quite common to see various surgeon fish species all over.
      Let us know how we can help.
      < Ben

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