KINGSTON — Residents of Waterford, Portmore, St. Catherine, should begin to see a reduction of their mosquito nuisance over the next few weeks, as a biological control programme progresses.
As part of the experimental phase of this programme, some three to four thousand Gambusia specie of the mosquito eating fish, known locally as the ‘Tiki Tiki’, were deployed in a drain on Adair Drive to feed on mosquito larvae on Friday (December 16).
The fish, bred by the Aquaculture Branch of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Division, is part of a batch of 10,000 to be released in the drain over the next three days. The Ministry’s supply and deployment of the fish, is in support of the work of the Portmore Municipality’s mosquito control programme, whch is being undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, through the St. Catherine Health Department.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, who assisted with releasing the fishes, said that the deployment was in addition to what was already bred in the water, and that the continued release will ensure that the fishes will be able to eat the mosquito larvae faster than they can breed.
He said that the experiment to reduce the mosquito population, was being undertaken before “we roll out” a fullscale programme in Portmore.
“We are hoping that the citizens in this area will see, in another month or two, a reduction in the mosquito population, and then we will be able to roll out this programme across Portmore,” he said.
He added that the St. Catherine Health Department had conducted a survey, which showed the major breeding sites for mosquitoes in the area, and the Waterford drain was chosen as one of the points to do the experiment.
Mr. Montague noted that, within two weeks, the St. Catherine Health Department will conduct another survey, to see how well the experiment is working, following which, the Department will undertake spot surveys of the mosquito population every month for six months.
“If this experiment is successful, which we hope it will be, and all indications show that it will be, we’ll be able to roll out more of this in the other canals and drains in Portmore, with the co-operation of the Municipality,” he said.
He pointed out that the biological method has been successfully employed in countries such as Singapore to control mosquitoes, noting that it has been proven that the fish can survive in saline and stagnant water, and in very harsh conditions.
“They are also very territorial. So that once they are flushed, in case there are heavy rains, they will go out to sea and they will come back into the drain,” he explained.
Some $50,000 allocated to the programme, has been used up in the breeding process.
“We will be looking at upping the pace of the breeding of the fingerlings (young fish), then we harden them and then we release them,” Mr. Montague said.
Mayor of Portmore, Keith Hinds, said he was happy to see the project come to fruition. He commended Mr. Montague for pushing it from “a year and a half ago”, when he was Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government. He was grateful for the assistance from the Ministry, noting that fogging alone could not solve the mosquito problem in Portmore.
Director of the Aquaculture Branch, Avery Smikle, said the Fisheries Division was happy to co-operate with the Portmore Municipality and the Ministry of Health, in finding a possible solution to the problem of mosquito infestation in Portmore.
“It is our hope that the fish released here today will begin to play their part (in) the entire ecological system, to assist in reducing the amount of larvae in the drains and canals,” she said.
Senior Public Health Inspector in the Vector Control Unit of the St. Catherine Health Department, Simeon Bromfield, said the natural, or biological, control of mosquitoes is encouraged, as fogging only takes care of adult mosquitoes.
Due to its flat topography and extensive drainage systems, communities in Portmore are plagued by mosquito infestation, primarily due to stagnant water contributing to infestation.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter