Mosquito fish (gambusia affinis), commonly known as “itar”

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (BFAR-NIFTDC) doubled down on their decision to distribute and use mosquitofish to fight dengue in the city after receiving criticisms from various groups.

The dissemination of mosquitofish (gambusia affinis), commonly known as “itar”, and its usage against dengue were studied and underwent numerous testings, according to BFAR-NIFTDC chief Dr. Westly Rosario.

The first time the mosquitofish was used to help alleviate dengue cases was in 2015 in Barangay Bonuan Gueset’s stagnant waters, which successfully resulted in an impressive drop of dengue cases.

Itong ginawa natin, inaral natin ito nang matagal. Kaya nga iilang lugar lang ang nilagyan natin noon para maobserbahan. The introduction of the species was done in stagnant waters without other wildlife around,” Rosario said.

However, the University of the Philippines Zoological Society, in its Facebook post on Aug.24, highly condemned the BFAR-NIFTDC’s move to maximize the mosquitofish as a way to prevent dengue.

They stated that mosquitofish is an invasive alien species and can cause damage to the ecosystem.

“We call for the release of additional mosquitofishes 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.

Others, such as a Facebook page named Isdang Tabang: The Philippine Freshwater Fish Taxonomic Initiative and AGHAM Diliman, also expressed the same sentiments about the move when BFAR-NIFTDC released more than 6,000 mosquitofishes to combat dengue in the city.

The origin of the mosquitofish goes back during the colonial period when the Americans brought it in the Philippines to prevent themselves from getting sick due to mosquitoes.

Furthermore, Rosario dismissed the misconceptions about these mosquitofishes being ‘invasive’, where he added that these fish even serve as prey to larger fish, such as mud fish.

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,” he said

According to him, proper directions about the mosquitofish were given to recipients before distributing it.

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,” he said. (RJ Espartinez)