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Walking catfish’ lands in Thames—but too cold to survive

PUBLISHED: 22:09 16 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:11 05 October 2010

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A RARE walking fish’ has been found washed up in the Thames Estuary. The Walking Catfish’ (pictured), which is non-native to Britain, was spotted by an angler on the foreshore along the Woolwich Reach in East London

By Mike Brooke

A RARE walking fish’ has been found washed up in the Thames Estuary.

The Walking Catfish’ (pictured), which is non-native to Britain, was spotted by angling enthusiast Birol Koca on the foreshore along the Woolwich Reach near Blackwall in East London.

“I instantly recognised it as a catfish,” he said. “I knew these fish should not be in our local rivers, so I called the Environment Agency’s 24-hour Incident Line.”

Catfish are becoming more and more popular in recreational fisheries and aquariums.

ENVIRONMENT THREAT

But they can pose a threat to the environment if they escape into the wild, by competing with our native fish for food and habitat and spreading disease or parasites.

It is likely that the unfortunate catfish found in the Thames was illegally introduced from an aquarium after it grew too large for its home.

Environment Agency fisheries officer Emma Barton said: “This species which is native to South East Asia has the ability to walk over land using its stiff pectoral spines’ and a back-and-forth movement of the body.

“It also has an air-breathing organ which functions much like a lung when it’s on land.”

TOO COLD!

Emma contacted her agency’s National Fisheries technical team who identified the mystery fish with the help of experts at London’s Natural History Museum and America’s Non-Native Fish labs in Florida.

Studies have shown that the lower lethal temperature for walking catfish is 9.4 to 12.8° C.

That means the Walking Catfish’ would be unlikely to survive in the Thames exposed to the British winter.


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