Exotic, invasive catfish overtake sewers in Cienfuegos, Cuba
BY LENA ALMEIDA
Mr. F. used to get lost under the city streets.
Using a flashlight under the cover of darkness, he placed a ladder into
the sewers and another city was revealed. He tied the light to a step
and tried not to make too much noise. The water was up to his ankles. He
could not see beyond 10 feet, but that was enough. He started to throw
food around and after a while the animals arrived. That's what he was
there for: to hunt clarias living under the Dorticós Avenue in Cienfuegos.
Mr. F. was getting good fishing, but after police caught him, the
practice stopped on that avenue for a while. Until others started doing
the same thing.
"They went down the sewage to install a draining," the neighbors say.
"That's when they saw them."
A video posted on social media shows a white coat that functions as a
sign to the cars that they should deviate from the path marked.
The video shows a small group of people watching the hunting party in
broad daylight. The man below the street hits the clarias on the head
with a machete, another man over the street hitches them up to the
surface with a wire and places them on the curb. These are large creatures.
"That day alone they filled five bags," the witnesses said. "And they
came two weekends in a row."
No one knows the exact site where this species arrived to the sewers of
Cienfuegos. Some people suspect that during a flood they entered through
a gap that ends below the streets.
Specialists from the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and
Environment (CITMA by its Spanish acronym) claim that this fish now
slithering through the sewers is an invasive alien species that destroys
Breeding the claria in Cienfuegos and in many other places in Cuba has
been marked by lack of control of biological security measures, experts
assert. That's why this fish has spread across the island.
The fact that they are highly adaptable, resilient and free-living
animals has allowed the clarias to settle in any ecosystem and even
jeopardize some. In the Cienaga de Zapata peninsula, this type of
catfish was damaging many prehistoric and endemic species like the
manjuarí, according to a report by Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde in 2006.
CITMA delegates work in several provinces to control invasive alien
species. But in the specific case of Cienfuegos, they only manage the
wild dogs in the fields of Guamuhaya and the green mussel of the Bay of
Also, the construction under Dorticós street originally was a storm
drain. But many people who built new homes in the area connected their
bathrooms pipes or disposed waste from pig pens there, turning the storm
drain into a sewage. That's how a new ecosystem with abundant food for
the clarias emerged there.
CITMA researchers warn about the risks of consuming meat from a claria
that has been captured in sewers, among so much filth and dirt. However,
witnesses of the "urban fishery" said that several specimens were sold
that same day.
Technicians from the Water and Sewage Company told the local press that
they don't have cameras able to visualize what happens inside the sewage
Although nobody can estimate the number of clarias that now live in the
sewers of Cienfuegos, they are said to be numerous. The image of people
pulling these animals from the sewage system in broad daylight paints a
clear picture of the situation.
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Source: Exotic, invasive catfish claria overtake sewers in Cienfuegos,
Cuba | In Cuba Today - http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article96709147.html