Pacus found in Michigan waters - WNEM TV 5

Pacus found in Michigan waters

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Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

They have human-like teeth, and they are being found in Michigan waters.

Last month the Michigan Department of Natural Resources got three reports of pacus being reeled in. Two in Lake St. Clair and one in the Port Huron area.

Officials believe the fish were probably released from their aquariums after they grew too large, or the owners didn’t want them anymore.

“Pet release is almost never humane. Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or find shelter,” said Nick Popoff, manager of the DNR's Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “Those that do succeed in the wild can spread exotic diseases to native animals. In the worst-case scenario, released animals can thrive and reproduce, upsetting natural ecosystems to the degree that these former pets become invasive species.”

Although it looks somewhat like a native shad, the pacu’s blunt teeth set it apart.

The red-bellied pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, is a popular aquarium fish imported from South America. And while it is a non-native fish, it is not considered invasive in the state because they are tropical-warm water fish that are not likely to survive the severe cold of Michigan winters.   

Pacus have been caught in lakes, ponds or creeks in at least 27 U.S. states, but there is no evidence they are breeding.

Even though they aren’t considered invasive, it is still illegal to plant fish of any kind in Michigan waters without a permit.

“This includes the release of aquarium fish like pacus and goldfish, as well as farm-raised fish from private ponds,” said Popoff.

Paige Filice of Michigan State University works with a new statewide campaign to Reduce Invasive Pet and Plant Escapes, or RIPPLE, offering solutions for aquarium and pond owners. 

“If your pacu has outgrown its tank or begun to feed on your other fish, rather than releasing it into a pond or stream, consider donating or trading it with another hobbyist, an environmental learning center, an aquarium or a zoo,” said Filice. “You can also check with the pet store where you purchased the fish to see if they will take it back.”

Another option is to talk with a veterinarian or pet retailer about humane methods to dispose of the pet. 

For more information on RIPPLE, click here.

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