Bangladesh to ban ‘suckermouth catfish' as it threatens aquatic biodiversity

The fish gained popularity as an aquarium pet due to its striped appearance and longevity

Moinul Hoque Chowdhurybdnews24.com
Published : 16 Nov 2022, 07:24 AM
Updated : 16 Nov 2022, 07:24 AM

The government has finally taken the initiative to ban the 'suckermouth catfish' species which has become a cause for concern among fish farmers.

The fish, considered a threat to aquatic ecology, will be added to the ‘prohibited list’ by amending the Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985.

The fisheries ministry has asked if there are any objections to the banning of the fish species. The objections have to be reported within two months, the ministry said.

The ministry will complete the formalities of amending the rules after settling any objections. Once the ban is declared, instructions will be sent out across the country to kill the fish wherever they are found.

In 2008, the government prohibited farming, hatchling production, breeding, marketing and trading of African piranha in Bangladesh. A ban was also imposed on the import, production and marketing of African catfish to protect local fish in 2014.

The suckermouth catfish will be banned for similar reasons, said Md Khaled Kanak, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries.

"Three to four species of fish are found in Bangladesh. They are harmful to the environment. Moreover, we do not eat sucker fish. Other countries also do not have a history of consuming this fish.”

"The prevalence of this species is constantly increasing across water bodies in the country. They have the ability to survive and breed in any environment. They have been breeding in both clean and polluted water.”

Describing the catfish as a 'threat' to native fish species, Khaled said, “They consume the larvae of native fish species and are also a threat to biodiversity. So, we have proposed a ban on sucker fish.”

ORIGINS OF THE SUCKERFISH NAME

The scientific name of the fish is Hypostomus Plecostomus. It is also known as a pleco in some countries. It has gold stripes on its black and uneven body and sharp fins on its back and sides. The fish possesses sharp teeth as well.

But the fish is not predatory. It feeds itself by sucking on the skin of other fishes. The shape of its mouth is similar to that of a hippopotamus. That is why the word 'suckermouth' has been added to its name.

There are many species of ‘suckermouth’ at the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, but only two to three species of small size are found in the water bodies across the country. They mainly feed on pond weeds, aquatic insects, and small fishes. The fish can survive without water for 24 hours.

It has gained popularity as an aquarium fish due to its striped appearance and longevity. Many people keep these fish in their aquariums because they consume fish waste and other types of junk.

Khondokar Mahbubul Haque, director general of the Department of Fisheries, said, "The fish may have been brought to Bangladesh to be kept in aquariums. Later, it gradually spread to open water bodies.”

CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Suckerfish have been spotted in various water bodies across the country over the past few years. Initially, they were found in ponds and canals, but now they have spread to different rivers.

The fish managed to survive in the polluted Buriganga, where other fish die out. Suckerfish are now also frequently seen in the Halda River, one of the largest natural breeding grounds for carp in South Asia.

Prof Manzoorul Kibria of Chittagong University’s Department of Zoology said that the reproduction rate of sucker fishes is very high. They can survive on low oxygen levels and become a threat to other fishes if they increase in numbers.

“Although not a predatory fish, they feed on algae-like food in water bodies. An increasing number of sucker fishes damages the ecosystem and can cause a food crisis for other fishes.”

Mahbubul Haque said, “The suckerfish live and feed themselves at the very bottom of reservoirs. And heavy metals are known to accumulate on the floor. That is a reason for concern as well."

NOW WHAT?

Foreign fish farming that harms indigenous fish species in Bangladesh is a punishable offence, according to the Fisheries Act, 2011. The banned fishes are listed under sub-section 2 of section 18 of the Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985.

Mrinal Kanti Dey, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, said a notification was issued on Sept 29 to add suckerfish to the ban list. The time allocated for objections, if any, is ending this month.

“We have received feedback from all types of stakeholders. We talked to fish farmers, traders, the fisheries department, experts and related parties. If there are complaints or objections, they will be resolved and the amendment will be finalised.”

[Writing in English by Md Taif Kamal]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher