Florida’s unique ecology is just one facet of what makes our state an amazing place to live as well as a wonderful destination for tourists. Preserving Florida’s environment is therefore key to preserving the natural wealth of the region, and that means a healthy dynamic must be maintained within ecological hierarchy. There’s a new threat joining the likes of the Burmese python, green iguana, and lionfish – notorious invasive species that have created a dangerous foothold in Florida.
Recently, a new invasive predator has turned up in the state’s Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers. It’s a massive fish that can grow up to 10 feet long, weighing hundreds of pounds: The Arapaima. The Caloosahatchee River runs from Lake Okeechobee west into the Gulf of Mexico and a dead Arapaima recently washed ashore in Cape Coral’s Jaycee Park.
Native to the Amazon River in South America, the Arapaima is considered one of the world’s largest predatory fish. Comparable to the tarpon (a big, athletic fish that’s native to Florida’s waters), Arapaima can launch out of the water to catch their prey. Because the arapaima eats everything from small mammals and birds to other fish, it poses a large threat to native Florida wildlife. It also produces hundreds of thousands of eggs during its lifetime, which could further disrupt the food chain.
While the population of Arapaima has not exploded just yet, state wildlife officials say their presence likely indicates that more will be found going forward. Like the Lionfish, these invasive fish feed on commercially and economically important fish, adversely affecting diving tourism. It is unfortunate to have to view such a peculiar and interesting creature in a negative light, but for the preservation of Florida’s beloved wildlife and environmental beauty it is imperative that invasive species are managed accordingly. So, if you happen to encounter one in your travels, Florida wildlife officials ask anyone who catches or sees an arapaima in the wild to call the Exotic Species Hotline at 1-888-IVE-GOT1 (1-888-483-4681).
See you on the road,