FARMERS in Cagayan province have resorted to using illegal fish “shocker” gadgets to curb the growing number of an invasive fish species seen to be responsible for the province’s rice fields.
The use of the cited instruments has long been prohibited by provincial fishery officials because of its environmental impact.
The problem was raised last year when farmers complained of the unabated invasion of rice eels in some areas of the province, prompting them to employ electro-fishing to stop the spread of the said species.
Venchito Villarao, Cagayan Provincial Fishery officer, issued a warning against the use of electro-fishing methods amid reports that at least 50 farmers in Amulung town use the illegal gadgets to catch rice eels, also known as Monopterus algus. Amulung town farmers said these rice eels have been destroying the levees of rice paddies by burrowing into the soil, resulting in the drying up of their rice fields.
“But [the use of electro-fishing gadgets]is still illegal under Republic Act 8550 or the Fisheries Code of 1998,” Villarao said.
Initially, farmers thought that the rice eels are beneficial since they can be caught and sold in local markets with the prevailing price of P80 per kilo.
But farmers started raising the alarm after noticing that some rice paddies dried up after the fish burrowed themselves into the soil.
Villarao, however, clarified that it was the Anguilla species which caused the problem and not the rice eels.
”Anguilla species are black in color and has a semi-pointed tail as against the rice eel which is yellow brown in color and which tail is that of the ordinary fish,” Villarao said. Villarao said Anguilla has been banned through a Fisheries Administrative Order. Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Director Jovita Ayson said that the agency has devised a rice eel trap for the use of farmers, adding: “while we disperse eels, we never disperse rice eels in the region.”
Meanwhile, in Nueva Vizcaya, harvesting rice eels is a big business as the species is reportedly exported to Asian markets, where the fish species is sold as a strong aphrodisiac.