Bid to stop spread of alien fishes

MOHAMED BASYIR

BUTTERWORTH: THE threat of foreign predatory fish species here has worsened as they are dominating water bodies where local species used to thrive.

In a bid to curb the threat, the state Fisheries Department is trying to idenfity locations where large numbers of such species have been released.

Its director, Noraisyah Abu Bakar, said once the locations were identified the department would find ways to stop people from releasing the alien fishes.

She said certain communities released fishes they keep at home during rituals as religious acts of goodwill or fulfilling vows.

Though their intentions were noble, Noraisyah said those who released the fishes did not realise they were creating an imbalance to the ecosystem.

“We visited a temple in Mak Mandin and advised devotees there to release native species instead of foreign ones.

“The feedback was positive. We had placed a signboard as a reminder,” she said adding they will be taking similar actions in other areas.

The African catfish has been identified as the main threat based on feedback the department received from fishermen.

Sungai Prai was once teeming with crustaceans, but the fishing community said it had depleted.

Based on the complaints, the department dispatched a team to inspect the river and found the African catfish dominating the habitat.

“The alien species hunted down the smaller species as food and this eventually led to the decline of indigenous fishes,” she said. “There are fears that the foreign species might be the source of diseases.”

Yesterday, the New Straits Times in its front-page report titled “Alien predators gobbling up everything” revealed the threat of predatory fish species.

Their presence could deplete indigenous species or even cause them to go extinct, according to ichthyologist Dr Amirrudin Ahmad in the report.