Piranha, Pacu, Invasive Species, the Future of Lake Okeechobee and the SLR/IRL

Mouth of a pacu fish with very human like teeth. Yikes! :) Public photo.
Mouth of a pacu fish with very human like teeth. Yikes! 🙂 These fish are reported to be in Lake O. Public photo.

Just the other day, one of my readers sent me a funny but educational video on Lake Okeechobee and the continued sightings of Pacu fish. Pacu Fish are related to Piranhas and both fish live in the Amazon River of South America. Both have TEETH.

Since my husband pulls out wisdom teeth and replaces teeth with implants,  teeth are often a topic of discussion for us, even at the dinner table….when we first met, he told me my teeth were great, except my “lateral incisors were too prominent…..:) —-the vampire teeth! 🙂 I was not happy…:)

Me holding up a fried piranha Ed and I caught recently on a trip to Peru.  (Photo Ed Lippisch 2015.)
Me holding up a fried piranha Ed and I caught recently on a trip to Peru. (Photo Ed Lippisch 2015.)

Anyway. Today’s blog post is meant to be fun but serious.

Invasive species are forever changing South Florida. Between pythons in the Everglades, Lion Fish in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Cuban Tree Frogs as well as Bufo Frogs in Sewall’s Point, and Pacu Fish with their “human like teeth” in the Lake Okeechobee—that of course is periodically dumped into our rivers—our world is changing. Native species are being replaced and overwhelmed.

In their 5th Biennial Review of Progress in the Everglades or lack thereof,  the National Reasearch Council noted Invasive Species as a top concern for Everglades Restoration.

I read about all this and get upset at the invasive species problem…then it dawns on me that some may say “we, modern man, in South Florida, are an invasive species too.”

Food for thought anyway….

Thank you to Ricardo Zambrano and Kelly Gestring of the Florida Wildlife Commission for replying to my question about PACU and Lake Okeechobee as seen below:

Pacu fish in an aquarium. Related to a piranha that looks somewhat similar but has sharp teeth. Public photo.
Pacu fish in an aquarium. Related to a piranha that looks somewhat similar but has sharp teeth. People have released them into Lake O. Public photo.

Dear Commissioner Thurlow-Lippish,

To the best of my knowledge, this report of a singleton pacu being caught by a commercial fisherman in Lake Okeechobee is true. The reporter contacted several FWC people and I was asked to confirm the identity of the fish.

We receive numerous reports every year of singleton pacu being caught (primarily in HOA ponds) every year from locations around the state. However, there is no indication that pacu are reproducing in any of our waterbodies. This strongly suggests that the illegal releases of pacu are by owners who no longer want their pet.

Pacu are primarily herbivores and pose little threat to native species. Anglers should be careful removing the hook as pacu’s have very strong jaws and their molar-shaped teeth could inflict a lot of damage to a finger.

We encourage anglers that catch a pacu to remove them to reduce any potential impacts they may have on the environment.

Thank you for your concern and if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kelly Gestring

Non-Native Fish and Wildlife Program
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
10216 Lee Road
Boynton Beach, FL 33473
(561) 292-6007 office
(561) 234-9925 cell
kelly.gestring@myfwc.com

Pacu: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacu)

WESH piece with video about Pacu sent by blog reader: (http://www.wesh.com/video/vuz/invasive-fish-with-humanlike-teeth-found-in-florida-lake/34337634?src=app)

One thought on “Piranha, Pacu, Invasive Species, the Future of Lake Okeechobee and the SLR/IRL

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