British Columbia

Invasive piranha pulled from B.C. lake twice this summer

An angler in Nanaimo, B.C., had a surprise this week when he reeled in his catch.

The conservation service says the fish were probably unwanted pets

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says this piranha was caught in Westwood Lake this week. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

An angler in Nanaimo, B.C., had a surprise this week when he reeled in his catch.

The province's Conservation Officer Service said the fisherman caught a red-bellied piranha at Westwood Lake, a popular fishing and swimming hole near the Vancouver Island city.

The service said it's the second piranha caught at the lake since the summer and the fish were probably unwanted pets. 

Piranhas are a tropical fish and wouldn't likely survive a B.C. winter, the service said, but it's reminding the public that it's illegal to release an invasive aquatic species.

Foreign fish can threaten native species and ecosystems, the service said. The crime comes with a fine of up to $100,000 and/or a prison term of up to 12 months. 

Agressive feeding fish

Kasandra Munroe, an employee at Creatures Pet Store in Victoria, said the fish are fairly popular. 

"If someone likes an aggressive feeding fish they're gonna want a piranha," Munroe said, adding that the store has sold about 60 of them in the past year. 

Despite horror movie lore, Munroe said the piranha was unlikely to be a problem for anyone spending time at the lake.

She said they would only be likely to attack large prey if they were starving and swimming as part of a larger school of piranhas. 

Munroe also emphasized the need for more resources to take in people's unwanted pets. 

"When a lot of people get certain fish, they run out of the space to care for it or they suddenly can't afford to feed it," she said.

"And as much as this particular store likes to try, we can't take in everybody's abandoned fish."

Munroe recommends that anyone trying to get rid of a fish contact local hobbyist clubs.