Discovery of foreign predatory fish in Malaysia worrying experts

Mr Hizam Hussin (right) and friends showing off his catch, a gigantic South American species of freshwater fish called Arapaima gigas. He caught it in the Ketil river, near Kampung Lubuk Pedati, in Baling, Kedah. The 1.5m-long fish weighed 200kg.

PASIR GUDANG -The discovery of a gigantic freshwater fish that is native to South America in Sungai Johor is making wildlife experts here worried.

State Fisheries Department director Munir Mohd Nawi said the carnivorous Arapaima gigas would pose a threat to the local wildlife other than fish if it manages to establish a viable population in the river.

Munir was commenting on a case where a local fishing enthusiast caught a two-metre long Arapaima recently, and said the department is trying to establish whether it was a stray fish that may have escaped from fish farms.

"We believe that the fish might have escaped from its pond during the major floods that hit Kota Tinggi district in 2006 or 2007," said Munir, who added that the department will be conducting checks to verify the matter.

"Previously, there were some local entrepreneurs who were allowed to import such fish, but we are controlling it," he said in a press conference during a handing over of ex-gratia payments to fishermen at Taman Pasir Putih here yesterday.

It was reported in a Malay daily that the large fish was caught by a local who happened to be resting at a riverbank along Sungai Johor on Monday.

Munir also said the department has labelled the Arapaima as a harmful alien species.

"Due to its size, it would become a predatory animal where it hunts small fish found in the river. The fish is not suited to breed in our rivers, but we are still searching if other Arapaima are found here," he added.