Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Home SCIENCE Chinese 'monster' fish still missing after city drains lake

Chinese ‘monster’ fish still missing after city drains lake


A poaching “monster” fish drew national attention in China last week when millions of people tuned in to a multi-day effort to catch it.

The fish, estimated to be at least 27½ inches long, was first seen in mid-July by a resident of Ruzhou, a landlocked city central Chinese city. Local authorities identified it as an alligator, a torpedo-shaped freshwater fish with razor-sharp teeth, and launched an operation to capture it. Authorities fear that the fish, whose origin dates back some 100 million years by fossil records, will attack humans.

The “monster” hunters faced a challenge: They first had to locate the fish in Lake Yunchan, a 30-acre man-made body of water filled with aquatic plants near the bottom. After two weeks of searching in vain, the local government announced that it would drain the entire lake.

As the drain drew to a close on Tuesday, media outlets and Chinese TikTok influencers flocked to the site to catch a glimpse of the fish. A live broadcast by the state-run tabloid Chutian Metropolis Daily drew more than 37 million viewers, as the hunting team set up searchlights and combed remaining puddles with fishing nets.

“I’m beginning [a] fire to cook it,” said a commenter on the live stream. Others brainstormed ideas for the search team, with one person proposing the use of Go-Pro-equipped remote control cars and others suggesting luring them in with a laser pointer.

For the moment the search team called it off Tuesday night, the fish still not seen.

The live streaming marathon continued with gar-related hashtags trending on microblogging service Weibo. Government officials told local media that the gar could be hidden in a roughly 200-yard-long U-shaped pipe that leads to the lake.

Silversides, native to the Americas, were introduced to China as domestic fish. They were prized for their peculiar appearance, but many were abandoned or released into the wild after they grew too large. Despite Chinese scientists pushing for gar to be added to an inventory of invasive species, it remains available at pet stores and e-commerce sites for as little as a few dollars.

The fish poses a threat to local ecosystems due to its voracious appetite, experts say. It also has few natural predators.

Climate change could be playing a role in reports of larger-than-normal fish in unexpected areas. (Video: John Farrell, Brian Monroe/The Washington Post)

In the United States, where the population of alligators seems to be on the declinetransport and trade of fish is regulated by federal law. In the state of Washington, the unauthorized release of an alligator into state waters can be charged as a serious crime.

“When a gar is released into a river, lake or fish farm here, it will start to gobble up everything, which can be a huge threat to local ecosystems,” said Gu Dangen, an aquatic ecosystem expert at the Pearl River Fisheries Research Institute. that he has studied invasive fish species.

Climate change in China drives up the price of a rare mushroom, a delicacy in Asia

The gar can grow up to 10 feet and prefers slow-moving bodies of water like the artificial lake in Ruzhou, he said. The fish may attack humans if it feels threatened, though such incidents are “extremely rare,” Gu added.

A 27-inch, 11-pound gar was seized in an eastern Chinese city after a child asked, according to a television station in Jiangsu province.

Members of the search team said Thursday afternoon that they would enter the large water pipe to hunt the gar. But some online commentators began to speculate on whether it was worth draining the lake for a fish.

“With all this fanfare, one would think it’s about catching the Loch Ness Monster,” commented a user on Weibo.

Gu said local officials meant well but may have overreacted.

“Economically, of course, it is not worth it. Are we going to drain all the lakes when we see gars there? he said.


Alligator fish caught in eastern China last week weighed about 11 pounds. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that he weighed 22 pounds. The article has been corrected.


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