By Ryan Sorote

The rare Velifer hypselopterus fish photographed at Janao Bay in Mabini, Batangas. (Danny Ocampo)

A diver recently chanced upon a rare Velifer Fish that is not endemic to the Philippines at Janao Bay in Mabini, Batangas.

Daniel “Danny” Ocampo was diving with divemastersb Daniel Abulag and John Kenneth Gines to look for parrotfishes at Anilao Batangas on March 21 when he photographed an unfamiliar fish species at 16 meters deep.

“I thought it was a juvenile batfish until it opened its fins, then I thought it was a Sailfin tang,” Ocampo said on his social media account.

He thought at first it was a different fish and snapped a picture. “[It was] very difficult since it was very skittish. [I] managed to snap only two before it swam away,” he said.

Ocampo, an Oceana campaigner based in San Jose, Mabini, Batangas, sought the help of fish ecology and taxonomy expert Kent Sorgon, who identified the fish as Veliferids.

“This is a valuable photo of a Velifer hypselopterus,” Sorgona said in a message to Ocampo. “Veliferids are very uncommon, and even museum specimens are few.”

Sorgon said the species had only been collected in Sri Lanka and that “As far as I know, no photographic record for this species exists for the Philippines,” he added.

Taiwan and Australia have specimens, and Philippine museums have none, he said.

The photo still needs further verification with experts.

Ocampo and his colleagues were elated with the find, which means that there is still a lot of marine biodiversity yet to be documented and protected.

“We are near the center of marine biodiversity, so this discovery is not surprising,” he told PressOne.PH. “I feel honored to contribute to citizen science on species discovery.” Ryan Sorote