Piranha found on Thames Published: 20 February, 2004
A startling discovery was made this week when Environment Agency fisheries officers were called to identify a very unusual fish, dropped on to the decks of a boat on the Thames.
A native of the River Amazon in South America, the 10cm Red Bellied Piranha is suspected to have been dropped by a passing seagull.
The Thames is now home to over 119 different species of fish, so the Fisheries Officers were not unduly surprised, said Tom Cousins, Environment Agency Fisheries Officer. It was very fresh and had obviously only just died. You could clearly see the marks made by the seagulls beak on its back.
The discovery was made on board the Thames Bubbler, which was moored at Halfway Reach in Dagenham. Ironically the vessel, which is owned by Thames Water, is an oxygenation vessel, dedicated to keeping fish and aquatic life alive.
The identification was confirmed by the Curator of the London Aquarium, Paul Hale, who said It is definitely a Red Bellied Piranha, but it would not survive in the low temperatures of the Thames, and we imagine that it was probably released and then floated to the surface where it was picked up by one of the every hungry seagulls and deposited onto the boat.
Piranhas are generally nervous and not the ferocious killers people think they are. They prey on weak and injured animals, including fish, birds and mammals, as well as carrion, he continued.
Piranhas could not survive in temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius for more than a few days whilst the water temperature in the River Thames is currently closer to 10 degrees. The deliberate release of such a fish into the river is therefore not only illegal, but cruel.
Owners of aquarium fish are reminded that it is an offence to release any non-native species into the wild under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 also requires the Environment Agencys written consent to release fish into any inland water.