Monday, July 31, 2006

Bio-Invaders: A Janitor Fish's True Story


In conservation biology, saving endangered species has been a foremost concern in order to protect the balance of nature. Until recently, that is...

Last week, after typhoon Glenda has wreaked havoc in Metro Manila and other nearby provinces, I attended a conference-workshop that put forth an emerging issue in terms of biodiversity (i.e., variety of life forms) -- INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES! I know, it sounds out of this world...

IAS, or invasive alien species are described as non-native organisms introduced in an area that may cause or potentially cause economic, ecological, and/or environmental loss. The janitor fish, or the South American sucker mouth catfish (haha, I had to include this interesting detail!) is an example.

Originally introduced by the aquarium trade industry, it may have escaped into natural waters and has now become invasive in the Marikina River. There have been claims that the nuisance catfish has caused damage to the banks of the Marikina River and fish cages in Laguna de Bay. Apparently, these fish burrow into river mudbanks when breeding, and may likely compromise the integrity of riverbanks. Not to mention that the janitor fish has no natural predators and its meat, too rubbery to be taken as fish meal. There have been reports (mostly undocumented) too, of janitor fish sightings from our nearby creek (along AKIC, draining into Pasig River) -- Estero Tripa de Galina to as far as the Agusan Marsh in Mindanao.

So what now? As more and more people get interested in caring for "exotic" species as pets or ornaments, it is important to carefully consider the kind of species that are being "introduced" and brought into the country. I am more concerned with the growing number of aquarium hobbyists, since fish and other aquatic animals are more likely to become invasive due to their motile nature, as opposed to plants.

As expressed by one of the conference's speakers, "To be informed is to be forewarned and forearmed." I guess it would not hurt to learn about these things and share the information with everyone we know...

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