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Citizens speak: Prevent janitor fish, save Lake Mainit

Surigao del Norte (November 14) -- Prevent the population increase and spread of Janitor fish in Lake Mainit.

This was the appeal of the people to the officials and leaders of the municipalities surrounding Lake Mainit that include municipalities of Mainit, Alegria, Santiago, Tubay, and Jabonga.

Aptly called the 'janitor fish' (Pterygoplichthys pardalis and P. disjunctivus), this imported specy of freshwater catfish native of Amazon in South America was introduced in 1990 by the local ornamental fish industry to be used by aquarists for cleaning up the sides of aquaria which the fish feeds on.

Although it did not pose any direct threat to people and other fishes, the move to prevent the pervasive Amazonian janitor fish was due to an excellent documentation of GMA7's i-Witness recently wherein this rough, exoskeleton-skinned creature wrought havoc to the river's ecosystem in the Agusan Marsh and a possibility that it might reach Lake Mainit.

In an open letter by the citizens of Lake Mainit, addressed to the Local Chief Executives and SB members of the five municipalities, urged the leaders "to act on this potential devastation and mobilize resources and communities to create a comprehensive community response."

Meantime, an online community of Mainitnons and Surigaonons, through the Pidjanga Blog (http://pidjanga.blogspot.com) has offered possible solutions for the consideration of the local officials. According to them, a Comprehensive Multi-Municipality Information and Education Campaign is necessary through the help of the Lake Mainit Development Alliance (LMDA) purposely to raise awareness about the reality of janitor fish, how it can potentially destruct the ecosystem of Lake Mainit, and how the communities can prevent this. Furthermore, they urged the local legislators to create a municipal ordinance to support the IEC campaign, and identify sanctions to those who will be caught putting janitor fish in the lake or in the rivers surrounding the lake.

The blog also encouraged the local LGUs to organize a community citizens watch groups to conduct regular surveillance activities around the lake and its tributaries. Lastly, a joint Surigao and Agusan Provincial Surveillance will be formed to conduct province wide inspections of Pet Fish Stores and disallow the sale of Janitor Fish.

The group is hopeful that if the local officials can act together as one community, they can prevent janitor fish from entering Lake Mainit. (Fryan E. Abkilan, PIA-Surigao del Norte)

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