Diver and marine conservationist Danny Ocampo was visiting Anilao on March 29, when something he had never seen before caught his eye.

“It looks like a juvenile batfish but it looks very unusual,” Ocampo said, according to a report by Esquire Philippines. He captured the fish on camera, and unbeknownst to him, made history in the process.

The fish is known as the ultra-elusive Velifer hypselopterus (Veliferidae), and Ocampo’s photograph proved to be the very first time it was documented in the Philippines.

Photo: Danny Ocampo

“It was a bit overcast and visibility was not so good so I approached slowly trying to get a better look at the fish,” he told Esquire in an interview. “And it suddenly opened its dorsal and anal fin! I thought it could be a Sailfin tang but I was convinced that it was a different fish. I tried to take a good photo of the fish but it was so skittish and, after two photos, it swam to deeper water and it was gone.”

Ocampo uploaded the photo and posted it on the Philippine Biodiversity Net: Digital Library of Species, a private Facebook group for scientists and naturalists interested in biodiversity.

Ocampo said Fortaleza identified the fish in the comments section, and was later on seconded by Kent Sorgon, both of whom are fish taxonomists.

“I hope this can also lead to more interest among Filipinos… Discoveries such as this can help our scientists get more support for research, which is badly needed,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo, who is a campaigner for Oceana in the Philippines, an organization that campaigns to stop illegal commerical fishing in municipal waters and advocates for appropriate policies and reforms for marine and fisheries conservation, added that it is not too late to support causes to help on the conservation of our biodiversity.

“It is not too late to help our biodiversity and raise awareness on the importance of managing our resources and wastes. There are so many things to do but all it takes is that first step and the decision that you will be a responsible Earthling,” he added.

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