|A red-bellied piranha caught in Texas' Tom Bass Park|
When most people think about the exotic pet trade in the U.S, what comes in their mind is Florida. This warm tropical paradise has been a major hub for this lucrative business for decades. However, the business has spelled disaster to the Sunshine State as many of these exotic creatures escape out into the native wild lands and even the suburbs. These animals range from giant rats to giant snakes, who affect the local communities and ecosystems through predation and even disease-spreading. This idea gives a clear example of how the demand for exotic pets has made threatened the lives of both the native residents and the wildlife.
While Florida still remains the center of exotic pets, further west is another state that has gained a similar notoriety for such invasive species: Texas. But instead of rats, snakes, and other creatures which unexpectedly turn up in people's backyards, the animals in this case are fish. And these aquatic exotic species have been turning up in the Lone Star State's waterways. One particular case was reported on August 27th when a red-bellied piranha was caught in a 23-acre lake at the Tom Bass Park in Harris County. This was the second piranha to be reported in Texas' waters. The first one documented was in 1982 at the Boerne City Reservoir in Kendall County. But piranhas are not the only exotic fish with a fearsome reputation to suddenly show up in Texas. Other potentially dangerous fish include freshwater stingrays and snakeheads.
|An Asian white carp caught in the Galveston Bay watershed|
The number one reason for this appearance is the aquarium trade, in which people would purchase the fish off the Internet and then release them into the water bodies once they outgrow their tanks. Despite the penalty for possessing and releasing live exotic fish, more and more are being discovered in the waterways. Robert Goodrich, an assistant chief for fisheries law enforcement of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), is one of several authorities who has seen the increased number of fish being brought in. He further added that he and other wardens regularly come across individuals who simply ignore the consequences of owning and releasing such fish. In addition to that, several fisheries are worried about competition in which the exotic species would dominate over the native species. Among the exotic species, it has been said that the armored catfish, the tilapia, and the grass carp have already set up self-sustaining populations in Texas.
|An armored catfish|
My opinion about this article is that it gives a clear idea about how the exotic pet trade has been threatening the local wildlife of the U.S. When people think of various disastrous issues related to this business, Florida is the ultimate place of such mayhem. Scores of exotic reptiles suddenly show up in people's neighborhoods after escaping from their enclosures, and even wind up out in the surrounding ecosystems competing against the native wildlife. But now, there is a similar sinister situation occurring in Texas where exotic fish are swimming about in the waterways. Some like the piranha, the snakehead, and the freshwater stingray are notorious for being dangerous to humans. Like reptiles in Florida, these fearsome fish are carelessly released out into the waters by some reckless individuals who never think about the consequences of committing such deeds. Not only are these people attempting to destroy the native wildlife, but are also endangering lives of other people. This is why I firmly believe it is crucial to control the populations of these fish, in order to prevent them from any further damage to the ecosystems.
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