March 18, 2009

Walking catfish washes up in London

Experts said a walking catfish, a species rarely seen outside of Southeast Asia, was found washed up on the shore of the Thames Estuary in London.

Birol Koca said he discovered the fish while he was fishing along the Woolwich Reach in East London, the East London Advertiser reported Wednesday.

I instantly recognized 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.

Environment Agency fisheries officer Emma Barton said her agency's fisheries team identified the find as a walking catfish, a species that would have trouble surviving the cold British winter.

This species which is native to Southeast Asia has the ability to walk over land using its stiff pectoral 'spines' and a back-and-forth movement of the body, she told the Advertiser. It also has an air-breathing organ which functions much like a lung when it's on land.

Experts said the fish was likely released illegally from an aquarium after it became too large for its home. They said the species can pose a threat to the local ecosystem by competing for food with native fish and spreading foreign diseases and parasites, the newspaper said.