TUGUEGARAO CITY — Fishery experts from the Provincial Agriculturist Office (PAO)–Cagayan and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here, recently met and discussed ways to control the rapid spread of janitor fish in different bodies of water in the province.

Bernaldo Camit, head of the OPA fishery section, noted that communal bodies of water and fishpond areas in the towns of Gattaran, Lasam, Iguig, Amulung, Baggao, Solana, Enrile, Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and Roxas and Quirino in Isabela, are now infested with janitor fish.

Fisherfolk, Camit said, are complaining because most of their catch now comprise of janitor fish.

What is janitor fish?

Janitor fish (Pterygoplichtys pardalis) got its name as it can often be seen glued to the glass walls in an aquarium where it uses its sucker-like mouth to ‘clean-up’ the attached algae.

Originally from South America, experts speculate that janitor fish came from aquarium enthusiasts who inadvertently dumped them into local waters. This gradually led to its proliferation in the different bodies of water in the country.

Adaptation of the species into local water is not hard, as the fish has a number of biological features enabling it to survive and thrive in marginal water conditions, fishery experts say. The fish is an omnivore. It feeds on algae and weeds but it also eats crustaceans, insects and detritus.

The fish has short and rounded body and can grow to a maximum length of around half a meter. It has a flat head like a catfish. The upper parts of its head and body are encased in longitudinal rows of scutes or armored plates.

This unsightly appearance notwithstanding, experts say that the fish is edible.

Government action

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – Region 02 Regional Director Dr. Milagros Morales said that the government will implement a two-pronged approach to control the spread of the species. One will be to implement direct measures to eradicate the fish and the other to promote its utilization as food or other purposes.

“We will conduct research and development on the utilization of the species, and a study to assess its abundance in the wild,” RD Morales, said.

The regional director said that the agency will also send trainees to Marikina and Laguna where they can learn the technology on fish processing and leather-making using Janitor fish.

BFAR and its LGU partners will also Intensify information and policy campaign at the local level. PNA/