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The Ness District Salmon Fishery Board team in Scotland were stunned to find two jaguar cichlids. Then they had another surprise the following day on the River Ness, when they witnessed a silver dollar, part of the piranha family.
A Ness DSFB spokesperson said: “This evening we received reports of two unidentified fish found on the Inverness Angling Club beat in Inverness, one of which was still alive.
“Our first thoughts from the description given on the telephone were that they might be perch, common across much of the UK but not native to the Ness. On collection, we were amazed to find what appeared to be two cichlid fish, more common in areas such as South America and Africa.
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“These fish are common in the aquarium trade, sold as pets, and it is likely that someone has decided to release them into the wild. If so, it is highly irresponsible. Anyone looking to release unwanted pet fish into local rivers and lochs are urged to find alternatives, as it can have a devastating impact on native species and ecosystems.
“Following the find, we headed out the following evening to check for more. We captured a juvenile Atlantic salmon, trout and eels as we worked upstream, before noticing what we initially thought was a large flounder. When scooped up with a hand net, we saw what looked like a piranha. We were shocked, to say the least.
“After a further search of the area, we found what we believe to be another dead jaguar cichlid. It seems clear that someone has taken these fish from an aquarium and put them into the River Ness.
“Any release of non-native species into the wild is extremely irresponsible, and could have significant negative impacts on our native fish stocks. The species found are all native to the warm climate of Central America, and so had little to no chance of surviving in the cold waters of the River Ness. However, they could pose a significant disease risk.
“After some research, the ‘piranha’ looks like a related species, a silver dollar, and definitely shouldn’t be released into the Ness,” the spokesperson added.
News of the two alien species shocked underwater filmmaker and keen angler Jack Perks.
Jack told us: “I’ve seen topmouth gudgeon before, which are established in the UK and can survive our temperatures, but nothing as exotic as this.
“Luckily, there’s no way these South American species can survive the winter here. They must have been released from an aquarium.”
The weirdest alien species discovered in England in recent years was reported exclusively in Angler’s Mail in 2017. Eight African clarias catfish, also known as walking catfish, were recovered by the Environment Agency from the River Tonge, in Lancashire.
The EA was contacted after a female angler was stung by one when she was fishing near Radcliffe Road, in Darcy Lever, near Bolton.
They have spines that can penetrate the skin, and they can also ‘walk’ using their pectoral fins.
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