When a fisherman in Arizona went out on the water, the last thing he expected to do was reel in a fish that had teeth just like a human! However, that’s exactly what Jeff Evans did when he was fishing on the north side of Tuscon’s Silverbell Lake. The fish must have been hungry and a little perturbed that he was reeled in by Jeff, as he even tried to bite him a few times.Once Jeff had shown the fish to people, it was identified as a ‘Pacu Fish’ which is native to South America, and a relative of the Piranha. These fish apparently start out as pets and then get dumped into the lakes when they are too big to manage. People dumping these kinds of fish in Tucson waters has been a problem for a while now. People usually don't realize that invasive species crowd out native species, so it’s bad practice just to dump big fish in a lake when you’re done with them.
Fish and aquarium stores report that they typically have no more than five pacu fish in stock at any given time. People are attracted to the pacu fish as a pet because it looks so similar to a piranha. However, they don’t realize that the pacu can grow up to 2 feet long - making it a tough pet to keep in the house. You never know, you might grab your supplies from Fishing Sun and end up catching one of these next time you’re fishing in a local lake! How would you react?Fish shops say that they attempt to explain the size to buyers, and that when they are kept in aquariums they can also be predatory, snacking on worms and small fish.
The Arizona Game and Fish regional aquatic wildlife program supervisor said pacu fish are actually on Arizona's restricted wildlife list of animals that cannot be owned without a permit. However, it’s clear that the people or stores selling them are unfamiliar with wildlife laws. In some cases, it’s even possible to buy these gargantuan fish on the internet.So, what should you do if you’ve purchased a pacu fish and you’ve realized it’s gotten a little too big, or you know somebody who has? Taking it back to the pet store is a much better idea than throwing it in a lake. Many stores that sell fish will gladly take them back on donation, so you don’t have to worry about anything. You know you’re doing the best thing for the pet fish and the other fish in the area.
Dumping fish isn’t just a big issue in Arizona. It’s a problem that people are facing all over the world. If you dump fish in water with no natural predators, it can interrupt the entire ecosystem by consuming local resources and killing important species. That includes goldfish! If you’re going to buy a fish, make sure you think about it just as carefully as you would any other pet.