Gov’t agencies declare war on fish ‘invaders’
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) has rallied nine other government agencies to intensify the war on clown knife fish infestation at Laguna de Bay.
The BFAR estimates that knife fish “invaders,” which have no value because these cannot be eaten, devour at least 70 tons of indigenous fish worth around P10.5 million daily.
BFAR Director Asis G. Perez said in a statement that some 10 tons of the fish, known to scientists as “Chitala ornata,” were being removed from the lake every day.
“For every kilo of knife fish, we are losing seven kilos of our indigenous fish species—including biya, bangus, tilapia and even shrimps—in Laguna de Bay which amounts up to P1,050,” Perez said.
“This is one battle we cannot afford to lose,” he added. “[We have to defend] the lake which produces more than 40 percent of the bangus supply in the National Capital Region and Calabarzon.”
According to BFAR, the invader is originally from swamps, lakes and rivers found in Southeast Asia and South America. It is “known for its aggressiveness and highly-carnivorous nature.”
In the United States where the government has observed increasing knife fish populations in certain areas, the US Geological Survey has traced its origins to the river basins of the Mekong in mainland Southeast Asia, particularly Laos, and Chao Phraya in Thailand.
The BFAR said that just like in the United States, the knife fish was introduced into the Philippines through the ornamental fish trade.
In a separate statement, LLDA General Manager Nereus O. Acosta said the infestation has affected the livelihood of 5,768 open-water capture fishermen as well as overall production from aquaculture.
Acosta, who is also presidential adviser for environmental protection, stressed that it was important to contain the invasive species to preserve the lake’s ecosystem and protect the livelihood of the industries dependent on it.
Last June 14, BFAR and LLDA signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with nine executive departments and agencies to coordinate efforts in addressing the problem.
* The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Trade and Industry,
* Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development,
* Department of Science and Technology, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority,
* Laguna Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council,
* Rizal Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council and Metro Manila Fisheries and
* Aquatic Resources Management Council.
These agencies will make up the technical working group that will draw the specific action plan to address the infestation.
Earlier, the BFAR through its Calabarzon regional office, signed a MOA with 12 Laguna towns for the massive collection and retrieval of knife fish.
Under this earlier initiative, a fisherman was paid P20 for every kilo of knife fish captured, providing those who are affected with an alternative livelihood while the bureau looked for ways to use the fish or its parts as value-added products for food, feeds or handicraft items.
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