In a move to further create awareness on the alarming threats of foreign and invasive fish species in the country’s inland bodies of water, the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources holds today the 2nd National Forum on Invasive Fishes in Rizal province.

The two-day forum, which centers on the theme “Mapaminsalang Dayuhang Isda, Pigilang Makawala sa mga Ilog at Lawa,” is an initiative of the bureau’s National Inland Fisheries Technology Center (NIFTC). It will include presentations of scholars and experts from partner agencies and the academe. 

“Our invited resource persons will open discussions on invasive fish species, their potential pathways and impact on biodiversity and aquaculture as well as the legal framework on exotic species’ introduction among other things,” said Dr. Aida Palma, chief of BFAR-NIFTC.

Aside from knife fish (Chitala ornata) and Janitor fish (Pterygoplichtys) in Laguna De Ba’I, other alien and voracious predators have posed distressing threats to other areas like the Giant Snakehead in Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija and Jaguar gapote in Taal Lake.

“It must be noted that globally, invasive fishes account for 48 percent of fish losses,” Palma said.

BFAR national director and concurrent DA Undersecretary for Fisheries Asis G. Perez said it is very important that the general public understands the threats and implications of these voracious predators to the country’s natural environment.

“The entry of these invasive fish species into our waters has not only put pressure to aquaculture production areas and threaten the livelihood of our fisherfolk but also exposed our indigenous fisheries and aquatic resources to a greater danger of being wiped out,” he said. “The knife fish, for example, used to comprise more than 40 percent of the fish catch in Laguna De Ba’I in the year 2011,” he added.

Now, it is down to 21 percent, Perez said, due to massive retrieval of knife fish and continuous information campaign conducted by Inter-Agency Technical Working Group composed of a fisherfolk organization, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Science and Technology’sPhilippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research Development (DOST-PCARRD), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), DA-BFAR and, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).  

While the inter-agency collaboration has found ways to utilize knife fish by putting economic value to it through post-harvest technologies, Perez said, BFAR is not encouraging its culture.

“We want to solve the problem by fighting the infestation of knife fish and prevent other areas from being affected by it,” he said.