Malaysia: Biosecurity knowledge needed to tackle invasive alien species

ROSLI ZAKARIA New Straits Times 27 Sep 17;

KUALA TERENGGANU: Enforcing biosecurity to protect local aquatic species from invasive alien species has taken a new twist.

Officers from the Fisheries Department are now arming themselves with knowledge to identify the invaders even at the fry stage.

They are now even suggesting that a certified biosecurity laboratory should conduct DNA profiling of invasive species that has the potential of destroying the local species and upset the ecosysstem balance.

The department, in acknowledging the potential threat, is training its enforcement team to identify the invasive and predatory species, including fishes, crustaceans and plants.

A strict quarantine procedure will also be put in place to prevent predation and diseases.

At the moment, the department has banned the import of 10 piranha species which are difficult to differentiate at the fry stage, peacock bass, trout, salmon, sturgeon, arapaima, northern pike and flower horn.

Sources from the department said fishermen and anglers had landed peacock bass and several species of cichlids, which are not native to Malaysia and they believe that these species were initially released in old mining pools for sport fishing but the fishes escaped into nearby rivers during floods.

“We are working closely with the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Service (MAQIS) to check imports of all alien fish to determine that these species are not from the list of banned species. In fact, permits are required for all imported aquarium fish.

“We want to ensure that these species, apart from being predatory upon maturity, do not harbour diseases that can infect and kill indigenous species,” said the source.

State fisheries director Zawawi Ali had said his officers would be inspecting all local aquatic shops to ensure that they abide by the laws.

Malaysia has about 700 freshwater fish species and some of the smaller species are under threat of predation by the aggressive peacock bass which has been sighted in major rivers in the country by anglers, including Sungai Terengganu.

The number of imported invasive and predatory fish species has also increased from seven genus in 1990 to nine genus in 2011 and currently, it has jumped to 14 genus.