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Special fish fried by Sayre Fire

Posted: November 18, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2008 4:55 a.m.

So-called mosquito fish are used to rid stagnant water - such as swimming pools at foreclosed homes - of mosquitoes, which breed West Nile Virus.

The fish are foul and the mosquitoes are multiplying.

Ash from the Sayre Fire choked the county's supply of mosquito-killing fish to death. Los Angeles County officials use the fish to fight the spread of deadly West Nile Virus.

The fishes' pond in Sylmar is reduced to a body of water in need of protection from mosquitoes.

"Our pond with all the mosquito fish was covered in ash," said Truc Dever, spokeswoman for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

"The pond was inundated with ash and they pretty much choked," she added.

Mosquito fish are crucial in the fight to reduce the number of people who fall victim to the virus by reducing the number of mosquitoes that carry it.

The fish, known by its scientific name Gambusia affinis, eat mosquito larvae.

Public demand for the fish peaked this summer when county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich issued a statement calling for "renewed action to prevent a West Nile Virus epidemic."

Demand heightened with the incidence of neglected swimming pools abandoned in record numbers due to foreclosures, officials said.

"We've been very busy," Dever explained about breeding and delivering mosquito fish. "I wouldn't say it's been because of the foreclosures and ‘green pools' but foreclosures have been a factor. It's mainly because of the warm weather."

About 200 Valencia homes are in foreclosure, according to numbers calculated by for the zip codes 91354 and 91355. Vector control officers ran out of the mosquito fish at the end of July because of demand, now their stock is completely gone due to the fire.

"Sylmar is really close to our pond," she said.

Santa Clarita Valley residents who want mosquito fish can get them from the vector control district in Lancaster.

Cei Kratz of the Antelope Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District recommends Santa Clarita residents coming to the district office for mosquito fish should bring a pail.

Demand for the mosquito-gobbling fish remained high the past six months.

"We're getting lots and lots of foreclosed homes," said Kratz.

Vector officials must now cultivate a new community of mosquito fish.

Public health officials battling the spread of West Nile Virus turned their attention to "green pools" after
Antonovich directed the Department of Public Health and Public Works to investigate and clear open waterways that harbor mosquito breeding sites.

The West Nile Virus is transmitted to humans and animals through mosquito bites and was first detected in the United States in 1999 in New York City.

Mosquito fish are native to southern and eastern portions of the United States.

Although it is not technically indigenous to the Santa Clara River watershed, the mosquito fish was introduced to the state 85 years ago.

Since then, public health officials have reported that the tiny fish is one of the most effective non-insecticidal and non-chemical methods of controlling mosquitoes.

Contact the Lancaster Vector Control office at (661) 942-2917.


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