Here’s how Wildlife & Fisheries determines if there are more piranhas in LSU lakes | New
A local fisherman catching a red piranha in LSU Lakes last week made national news, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is still investigating the situation.
LDWF said they believed the piranha was originally someone’s pet and the individual released it to the lakes. Red piranhas – also known as red-bellied piranhas – are illegal in Louisiana and 26 other states. However, the fish can be easily obtained even in these states. Red piranhas can be purchased online for under $ 20 and can also be found at some trade shows. Other varieties of piranhas are also readily available.
LSU freshwater ecologist Professor Michael Kaller said that while the aquarium trade is heavily regulated, it is lightly enforced. He said it wouldn’t be difficult for a student to get one of these illegal fish.
“Non-native fish only arrive in these habitats through the action or inaction of humans,” Kaller said, explaining that the theory that someone would release the fish into the lakes was the most likely scenario.
“I don’t think finding this right after a semester ends is a coincidence, it’s a really difficult coincidence,” Kaller said. “It gives a lot of credibility to someone who is throwing themselves in. Now that doesn’t mean it was an LSU student, there are a lot of different people out there who could.”
Kaller said accidental introductions aren’t always intentional or malicious, and that often someone can think that a fish is dead when it isn’t, and release it into a lake or river.
“In our profession, we always advise people to dispose of aquarium plants and animals through the conventional sanitary waste disposal system,” Kaller said. “In other words, put them in the trash. Don’t assume they’re dead, don’t put them in the wild, especially plants. Fish can look dead and not be dead. where the accidental side comes from. “
It is also possible that a student will return home for the summer and not want to kill their pet fish. So he released it into the lakes, not realizing the potential consequences this invasive species could have on the ecosystem, Kaller said.
In order to determine if the captured red piranha was the only one released into the lake, the LDWF conducted a sampling program rather than a full census, which often involves draining the entire body of water or pouring a poison or poisonous in the lake to kill all the fish so that they can be counted. Sampling is a safer, albeit slightly less efficient, alternative to censuses.
“What we do is we use a scientifically sound sampling program where we go to probable habitats and use appropriate sampling devices – nets in this case, fish traps, electrofishing. that puts a current in the water that stuns the fish – and we’ll go places and apply these programs to make sure we’ve counted it all, but we never really do it, ”Kaller explained. it is about applying these good scientific practices to give us estimates. To estimate zero is really difficult, but we can estimate that we are pretty sure it is zero. “
Kaller said the sampling process in LSU Lakes can be more difficult than in other areas of Louisiana, as it is often shallow around the perimeters and there are many underwater obstructions and tree stumps. .
After completing an initial sample, LDWF did not encounter any other piranhas.
“The Department plans to continue sampling for the presence of piranha,” said LDWF Aquatic Nuisance Coordinator Rob Bourgeois. “We do not believe there is an increased danger to those who use the University lakes for recreational purposes, but we continue to warn fishermen as they are more likely to be bitten while removing the piranha. of their lines. “
Kaller agreed that it should be safe to continue using the lakes for recreational purposes at this time, as piranhas are generally not aggressive towards humans unless they are disturbed or in a foraging mode.
“I think it’s good to kayak and paddle board in the lakes, [but] I would be careful swimming in the lakes just because they are a catchment area for so many parts – the LSU campus as well as all of those neighborhoods, “Kaller said.” You always want to be careful when you have a lake like this. , it can have E. coli and other germs and bacteria, you want to minimize contact with that. “
UREC Executive Director Laurie Braden said they are taking guidance from the LDWF and that kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other lake gear can still be hired at the Adventure Center in the UREC.
LDWF urges anyone who thinks they have caught a piranha not to release it and to contact Rob Bourgeois at [email protected] or (225) 765-0765.