‘Aggressive American’ pest fish netted in Mackay
AN ANGLER has pulled an oscar cichlid from Mackay's waters for the first time in the region, but this small victory against the South American pest has been overshadowed by new sightings of the fish.
Samantha Bottomley was fishing at The Gooseponds, near Sams Rd when she caught an albino oscar, an aggressive pest with the potential to decimate the region's native fish stocks.
Ms Bottomley said she recognised the exotic fish as the species was popular in pet shops and aquariums.
But the capture of this fish may not mark the end of the oscars' presence in Mackay.
"There's definitely more down there, I've seen a few others," Ms Bottomley said.
She said she was concerned as the captured female fish was sexually mature and ready to release her eggs.
"It vented when we pulled it out, definitely a female," Ms Bottomley said.
"As we broke the neck eggs, started coming out."
Ms Bottomley said she was frustrated at other exotic fish owners for recklessly releasing the aggressive pet.
"We have already lost some beautiful fish to the banned list for this very reason," she said.
"If oscars get out of hand, which they will, it will be another fish on our non-import list.
"It sucks … when people release them, there are plenty of other options to rehome them.
"More research is needed before people buy the bigger, aggressive American (species)."
Catchment Solutions fish biologist Matt Moore said the capture of the albino oscar, which was first spotted last month, was fantastic news.
But he said more was needed to ensure the fish did not become established in Mackay, adding to the region's unofficial title as the pest fish capital of Australia.
"It's a good thing they've caught it," Mr Moore said.
"But we don't know there's not more in there.
"The only way to tell is to undertake a survey."
Mr Moore said electrofishing surveys could be used to check waterways, like the operation to catch the Peacock Bass in the Gooseponds last year.
"But our number one fight against pest fish is the fight to get people to be aware and to not release them," he said.
Mackay Regional Council would not confirm if additional measures or surveying would be arranged after the capture of the oscar.
The council said it was not aware of reports of the albino oscar cichlid in the Gooseponds, despite Councillor Martin Bella raising the issue in a September meeting.
Development Services acting director Caitie Becker said the council would continue to monitor the Gooseponds for invasive species.
"Everyone has an obligation to take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent or minimise a biosecurity risk," she said.
"If someone has been releasing oscar cichlids into the wild, it is not only disappointing but it is also illegal.
"They are an introduced predatory fish and can have devastating effects on our waterways.
"Never release pet fish into the wild, instead take them back to the pet shop where you bought them from or destroy them humanely and dispose of them away from our waterways."
Ms Becker said any sightings of pest fish should be reported to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries also did not confirm if additional action would be taken in response to the oscar's capture.
A Biosecurity Queensland spokeswoman said pest management was a local government responsibility.
"Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, each local government must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in its area and this may include actions to be taken on certain species," she said.