INVASIVE SPECIES ALERT!
Be on the alert, unwanted invasive species report in Corozal Bay! Monday, September 13, 2021, our team responded to a report made by a fisher, of an unusual fish caught on the shores of Consejo Village in the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The specimen has been confirmed to be an Amazon sailfin catfish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis), a freshwater tropical fish in the armored catfish family. This is one of a number of species commonly referred to as the common pleco or "Pez Diablo" in Spanish. The species is native to South America but believed to have been introduced into the Gulf of Mexico and eventually into our fresh waterways in the Rio Hondo Watershed. The species has been reported upstream in Rio Hondo where they seem to have established outside of their natural habitat. The fact of being caught in the bay outside of Rio Hondo is a real concern. While these are not known to be carnivorous, feeding primarily on algae and small crustaceans, they tend to be able to out-compete the native species and are known to become the dominant species that can take over entire freshwater systems. Therefore, becoming a real threat to native species in our freshwater systems. The major concern here is that it can now jump to the New River watershed using Corozal Bay as the connection. The extensive rain in the last few days has decreased the salinity of Corozal Bay creating a temporary suitable freshwater condition for the pleco. The pleco is known to caused major impacts in aquatic ecosystems around the world to the point that they have been linked to the decline of freshwater fisheries. They also tend to be very adaptive in the sense that they can gulp air, making them more resilient and better equipped to outcompete native species in freshwater bodies with low oxygen levels.
Please be on the lookout and if you ever come across these fish species, kindly report it to the authorities (The Belize Fisheries Department) or to us here at SACD @ 671-1440 or by emailing [email protected]