The milkfish or bañgos, scientifically known as Chanos chanos (Forsskal), is a unique fish which has a great impact on the economy of the Philippines and Indonesia wherein about 300 million pesos are invested in its fishery. The countries of India, Malaya, North Borneo, Thailand and Vietnam have recently considered making use of this valuable marine resource.
This fish, the only member of the family Chanidae, is found in the Red Sea, east Coast of Africa; all over the Indian and Pacific Oceans to Hawaii, and even in the coast of Mexico. The Philippines appears to be at the center of the range where more fry is taken than elsewhere.
This fish was first described by a Dane, Forsskal, in 1775 from the Red Sea the Type Specimen (dry skin) is now preserved at the Zoological Museum in the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Of the approximately 200 species competing for food in the littroral and estuarine zones of the Indo-Pacific waters, only this fish and the mullets of the Clupeiformes depend almost exclusively on the benthic biota of the sea bottom.
To this day bañgos is known to school in the Red Sea during its breeding season, when quantities of the huge fish move near the shore. It is not in any way esteemed in Egypt due to its bony condition. Whether the breeding population of bañgos is homogeneous or not along its range is unknown.
In India, Ceylon, Thailand, and Taiwan, the annual catches of adult bañgos vary from a few stray specimens to some hundreds of fish. These are caught along the coast approximately one month before the beginning of the fry season. Even the commercial and subsistence fisheries of the many islands of Indonesia do not produce more than approximately 1,000 to 2,000 fish a year.
In the Philippines, in spite of conservation measures prohibiting the catching of breeding bañgos (sabalo), in a few localities, thousands could be caught in 1952 (Bunag MS).