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Acts of the Gov’t and private sectors to prevent the knife fish

MANILA, Philippines-Laguna Lake-based groups Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) and Anakpawis partly list-Laguna Lake chapter today rejected the proposal of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) urging all concerned stakeholders to conduct massive collection and harvesting of knife fish eggs to stop the spread of invasive specie currently infesting the livelihood of small fishermen and fish pen operators all over the lake. "The government is treating the issue as bizarrely trivial escapade with this highly outrageous solution offer by BFAR. We are asking for decisive scientific resolution from BFAR and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and not whimsical adventures created by mind-boggling officials of BFAR and LLDA," Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a press statement. Hicap, also the vice chairperson of Anakpawis party list and convener of SLLM said the LLDA should instead pursue the opening of Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NHCS) to allow saltwater from Manila Bay to enter Laguna Lake to cure the current ecological and biodiversity imbalance in the 90.000 hectare-lake. BFAR director Asis Perez argued that collecting and harvesting of knife fish eggs could stop the said findings made by the agency’s National Inland Fisheries Technology Center showed knife fish could spawn naturally in the lake and its eggs stick to bamboo poles and stakes of fish pens and cages. Yesterday, Pamalakaya announced that a House Resolution urging the House Committee on Natural Resources to investigate the invasion of new predatory fish in Laguna Lake known as knife fish will be filed early next week. Full-blown inquiry According to Salvador France, the vice-chairperson of Pamalakaya said Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis party list will file the resolution early next week calling for a full-blown inquiry on the presence of knife fish in the 90,000 hectare lake, which fishermen dismissed as a predator that threatens the livelihood of lake people and which would lead to the eventual death of the lake's biodiversity. "The chief of Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are treating the invasion of predator knife fish like an ordinary thing. LLDA general manager Neric Acosta and BFAR director Asis Perez are detached from reality and acting like political bipolars," said France. Pamalakaya, the SLLM and Anakpawis party list-Laguna Lake chapter theorized that the proliferation of knife fish in Laguna Lake was intentional. The lake-based groups said the LLDA is principally behind the mushrooming of knife fish so the national government can compel small fisherfolk and fishpen operators to leave their livelihood and pave way for 54 major projects under the Laguna Lake Master Plan that promised to give Malacanang some P 400-billion in total investments. The groups said the major projects include the 100-km road dike from Taytay, Rizal to Sta. Cruz, Laguna, the dredging of the lake, the construction of ferry system, the development of Talim Island into an international airport and the conversion of Laguna Lake into a major source of potable water with Maynilad and Manila Water assured of 300 million cubic meter and 100 million cubic meter of water

supply on daily basis. But Secretary Acosta dismissed the claims of lake based organizations as unfounded. Anakpawis Rep. Rafael V. Mariano demanded the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to thoroughly probe the knife fish infestation in Laguna Bay that is causing damaging effects on the livelihood of small fisher folks and small and medium fishing entrepreneurs. “The LLDA and BFAR must stop making excuses for their non-action on the growing problem of knife fish proliferation in Laguna Lake. Predator The government must act decisively and concretely to stop the invasion of this ‘predator alien fish’ that feeds on local fish species, severely affecting the livelihood of local fisher folks,” said Mariano. "The alarming proliferation of knife fish adds to the usual problem of fish kill, pollution and poverty in Laguna Lake. The knife fish is swiftly killing the livelihood of small fisher folks who rely on the lake for their daily food consumption and income,” said Mariano. Contrary to the claim of LLDA, Mariano said fisher folks see very little or no opportunity at all in the proliferation of knife fish in Laguna Lake. Small fisher folks consider the knife fish as ‘pests in the lake’ as it feeds on fry and fingerlings of more common fish species like milk fish (bangus), tilapia, big head carp, silver perch fish (ayungin) and catfish (kanduli). Small fisher folks in Binangonan, Rizal are complaining that knife fish now comprises a significant portion of their daily catch. A kilo of knife fish sells only for P8 to P15 compared to milkfish that sells P80 to P100 per kilo. The knife fish are sold to local fish ball and fish cracker manufacturers. “Even locals do not eat the knife fish,” said Mariano. Small fish pen and fish cage operators are also bearing the brunt of dwindling fish harvest in Laguna Lake. Since 2010, fish harvest drastically reduced from 200 tons to 50 to 75 tons of native fish. Mariano said the government must urgently consider opening the Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure to allow sea water to flow into the Laguna Lake. “Opening the Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure can cure the ecological cycle of Laguna Lake and rid it of pollutants including invasive fish species.” Knife fish, (chitala or clown knife fish) an alien fish specie common in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos started proliferating in Laguna Lake two years ago. As to how the knife fish reached the local waters remains a mystery. Laguna Lake is the largest source of fresh water fish for consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. The solon will file a resolution urging Congress to investigate the proliferation and effects of knife fish on the livelihood of small fisher folks and the local fishing industry. 82K households Pamalakaya, SLLM and Anakpawis-Laguna Lake chapter said the spread of knife fish goes with the actual plan of the national government to remove some 82,000 households or 500,000 fishermen and lake residents. "The knife fish invasion of Laguna Lake will help the LLDA and the office of the President condition the mind of and convince the Filipino public that fishing is no longer feasible in the lake and it is about time to look for other opportunities rather than stick to fishing for livelihood and other economic opportunities," they said. Acosta had downplayed the huge economic and environmental crisis posed by knife fish in Laguna Lake. The LLDA top official said as far as the lake agency is concerned only 30 percent of the daily production is affected by the proliferation of the invasive specie. But Pamalakaya maintained that the knife fish invasion of Laguna Lake reduced production by 70 to 90 percent both in fish capture and aquaculture sector.

Acosta said the LLDA will explore the good potentials of the ornamental and exotic fish like knife fish, which he said is commercially viable because knife fish can sold for P 30 a kilo, it is fit for human consumption and it has other uses. He said there are more benefits that can be derived from knife fish than the janitor fish. He said BFAR even suggested to process knife fish into fish balls which can be exported to other countries. "Acosta wants the Filipino people to say goodbye to bangus, tilapia, ayungin and big head carp and change their eating habit with the carnivorous and exotic knife fish now coming into the picture as the star of their dining table. How can you accept this logic. It is illogical and pathetic line of thinking," Pamalakaya said. Several groups had urged LLDA to open the Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NHCS) to allow saltwaters from Manila Bay during high tide to come into the lake and cleanse the lake of various toxic and alien species.

Clown Knife Information
Classification: Order: Osteoglossiformes Suborder: Notopteroidei Family: Notopteridae Genera: Chitala

Scientific Name: Chitala Ornata Common Name: Clown Knife Fish, Featherback

Distribution: Southeast Asian...found in calm, large rivers and backwaters that are overgrown. Clown Knife Fish are very popular as food fish in their native land throughout Asia.

Water Parameters: PH: 5.5 to 7.0 dH Range: 2-10 Temperature: 75ºF to 82ºF (24-28°C)

General Body Form and Characteristics: The Clown Knife Fish is nocturnal, although they do sometimes come out during the day. They are quite remarkable to watch when they swim, as they are just as comfortable swimming backwards as they are going forwards, and they are amazingly flexible. When changing direction, they can turn within their own body length and often seem as though they have no backbone. Although they are very high through the body, they are very narrow widthways. This makes it possible for them to fit through very slim spaces where most owners would think it was impossible for them to wriggle through. They tend to be quite shy and skittish fish which can be easily startled when surprised. Unlike their South American name sake, they have very good eye sight, which enables them to be highly skilled predators. They are ambush predators so while hunting, they like to approach small fish from behind, sneaking up very slowly, then pouncing and engulfing their prey whole in their enormous mouths. They can fit much larger fish that you would think into their mouths, so they cannot be considered safe in a community tank. They are very hardy fish once they reach a certain size, but can be sensitive to water conditions and some medications when they are smaller than 9 or 10". I have heard of many cases of young fish, 3 to 5", dying soon after they are purchased due to shock or unsuitable tank conditions. And last, but not least, Chitala species have air breathing organs. Coming from low oxygenated waters, they have developed the ability to breathe air from the surface. So it is not uncommon for these fish to come up for the occasional air gulping. Compatibility: When young, these fish are comfortable in groups, but as they mature, they much prefer to live singly. Adult specimens will not tolerate another Clown Knife or similar species in their tank, though, there has been success with raising young Clown Knives together to adulthood. They also cannot be kept with smaller fish of any kind, as anything small enough to fit in their mouth will be considered as food and they will often take a snap at larger fish, just on the off chance they may get a meal out of it. Clown Knives tolerate large tankmates quite well, often ignoring attempts by territorial cichlids to chase them off. This can sometimes lead to problems with injuries being inflicted, although the clown will usually retreat to its hiding place before any major conflict occurs. Tank Size and Aquarium Set Up: The first thing you need to think of when it comes to this fish is that it can reach an enormous size, even in the home aquarium. They are often offered for sale as small as 3", and a lot of fish stores seem to forget to mention to the prospective owner that this cute little wiggler can reach lengths of up to 36". They can be comfortable in a 55gal tank up to around 10", but then you will need a tank that is an absolute minimum of 180 to 240 gallons and bigger is always better.

Due to their nocturnal nature, they need a place to hide during the day. A piece of pipe or a cave where they can get away from the light. Without this, they can become stressed very easily and will try to fit themselves into any dark space they can find, often causing damage to themselves. They do better with open swimming space, but they are adept as negotiating obstacles such as plants and piles of rock. In the wild, they inhabit slow moving rivers and lakes in many areas of Asia, and do well in tanks set up similar to this type of environment. They prefer a neutral pH and softer water, but larger fish can adapt to a higher pH and hard water. Feeding: Clown Knife Fish can be extremely picky eaters. In their natural habitat, they are exclusive piscavores, and this can become a problem in the home aquarium. If you start young enough, they can be trained to eat pellets and some frozen foods, but this cannot be guaranteed, so a supply of healthy live feeder fish is usually required especially in the beginning when you bring them home from the LFS. This supply can consist of pretty much anything the fish can fit in its mouth, Goldfish, Buenos Aires Tetras, Neon Tetras, small Convicts, Guppys, etc. Some other foods that will sometimes be accepted are pieces of prawn, shellfish and some meaty foods such as beefheart, although animal proteins are not considered to be very healthy for them and should only be fed occasionally. Vary your Clown Knife's diet as soon as possible. Don't let your Knife get locked onto ONE food type. Mine loves Hikari Massivores, cooked jumbo Shrimp, and frozen Silversides. Growth Rate: Growth rate will vary depending on various factors1) Tank Size 2) Water Quality 3) Diet In the wild, they have been recorded 36" and over. Usually in aquariums, they will obtain a decent size of 18" to 24". For the most parts, I've had pretty fast growth rate for these guys...growing at an inch per month. Coloration: Generally silver, with a green tinge. The most striking feature are the circular markings along the middle area of the fish (ocellaris). The ollecari may increase in size and number as the fish grows. There are also Golden, Spotless, and Albino variations available. Breeding: Because only young fish are kept and most never reach maturity, as far as I can find out they have not been breed in an aquarium. And there are no exterior differences between males and females.

Breeding/Reproduction: Captive breeding is possible but this probably won't happen unless the fish are kept in a very large tank, in this case, that means 500 gallons or more. They are usually bred in ponds. The pair will usually lay their eggs on a flat rock with floating plants as cover. The male will aggressively guard them until they hatch in 6 or 7 days. The fry should be moved into a rearing tank and fed baby brine shrimp until they are large enough to take other foods. Overview: A monster of the hobby, the Clown Knife should not be purchased by the casual hobbyist. Reaching huge sizes few people can properly house them and fewer can help them thrive. With its elongated head, huge underslung jaw and humped back, it definitely is unique, beautiful monster type of a fish. Along with its odd looks, these fish have great personalities and are amazing to watch gliding around the tank at night It is also very popular because of its common availability, relatively low price, and variable pattern of large spots. It seems that no two are exactly alike. They may have no spots at all and sometimes you may find one with two rows of smaller spots going into very large spots. Other Similar Knife Species: Chitala Chitala: Rare and endangered...not likely to be readily available to the hobby, yet the scientific name is also used to describe the Clown Knife Chitala Blanci: Also known as the Royal Knife Chitala Lopis: Also known as the Giant Knife or Giant Mekong Knife Notopterus Notopterus: Also known as the Asian Featherfin, Asian Black Knife, or Bronze Knife