BFAR defends distribution of mosquito fish vs. dengue

DAGUPAN CITY — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (BFAR-NIFTDC) here defended the use of mosquito fish to fight dengue in this city after the measure was criticized by some groups in social media.

In an interview Thursday, BFAR-NIFTDC chief Dr. Westly Rosario said the distribution of mosquito fish and its utilization against dengue were studied and underwent several testing.

“We started using mosquito fish against dengue in 2015,” he said, referring to their initial release of mosquito fish in Barangay Bonuan Gueset’s stagnant waters, resulting in a significant drop on dengue cases.

Itong ginawa natin, inaral natin ito nang matagal. Kaya nga iilang lugar lang ang nilagyan natin noon para maobserbahan. (What we did here, we studied this for a long time that’s why, we only released in few places before for observation). The introduction of the species was surgical and was done in stagnant waters without traces of other water fauna,” he added.

In a post by the University of the Philippines Zoological Society dated Aug. 24, the organization condemned BFAR-NIFTDC’s decision to utilize the mosquito fish as a deterrent to dengue.

It noted that mosquito fish is an invasive alien species — meaning it is not native to a specific location and has a tendency to cause damage to the ecosystem.

“We call for the release of additional mosquito fishes to cease. This project, along with several others that involve the introduction of invasive alien species, disturbs the current ecological performance of the affected environment and could pose adverse effects to the current aquatic ecosystems of the country if further implemented on a national scale,” the group said in its Facebook post.

A Facebook page named Isdang Tabang: The Philippine Freshwater Fish Taxonomic Initiative, and AGHAM Diliman also shared the same complaint, after BFAR-NIFTDC recently distributed more than 6,000 mosquito fishes (gambusia affinis), commonly known as “itar”, to fight dengue in this city.

The mosquito fish was brought to the Philippines by the Americans during the colonial period in order to prevent themselves from getting sick due to mosquitoes.

Rosario also dispelled misconceptions that mosquito fish is ‘invasive’, noting they even serve as prey to larger fish, such as mud fish.

He also assured that the release has been administered in a controlled condition and confined places.

Kung invasive, eh di sana siya yung naghahari-harian ngayon. Pero hindi. Pakawalan mo man yan sa dagat o sa ilog mamamatay yan. Kasi sa ilog, may water lilies o kung hindi, kakainin yan ng mga mas malalaking isda (If it is invasive, it should have been dominant now. But no. If you released it in seawaters or rivers, it will die because in rivers, there are water lilies or if not, it will be eaten by larger fishes),” he said.

Rosario further assured that before giving out mosquito fish, they provide proper directions to recipients.

Walang masama kung batikusin kami. Gumagawa kami ng paraan, ng pinag-aralang paraan. Kung gumagawa rin sila ng hakbang para tumulong, that’s fine with me. Ayaw ko pa na pagdating ng araw, singilin ako, sabihin na wala akong ginawa (I don’t see anything wrong with them criticizing us. We are giving solutions, which were well studied. If they too are doing some things to help, that’s fine with me. What I don’t like is that one day, I will be accounted and they would say I did nothing),” he said.  Ahikam Pasion / PNA –