AN ALLIGATOR gar fish weighing more than 8 kg and known only to inhabit waters in North and South America was caught by a fisherman on Jan 19 in Yangon’s Hlaing River in Wah Taya village.
During a Jan 23 press conference held to share the surprising dis-covery, U Win Kyaing, general secretary of Myanmar Fishery Federa-tion (MFF), said that the carnivorous, fresh water mega-fish is more than three foot long and is mostly found in South America’s Amazon River.
It is unknown how the fish, which derives its name from its alligator-like snout and teeth, heavily scaled body of a maximum length of three meters and a weight of 140 kg, ended up in Myanmar. The alligator gar fish’s pre-historic ancestors were common in many parts of the world, and U Win Kyaing said that an ancient word for the species exists among certain ethnic minority languages in Myanmar. Translations include the “demon” or “alligator” fish.
“However it’s not a species native to modern Myanmar. Scientists here were searching the internet to discover its name and characteristics. We’ll hold talks to educate the public about this unusual fish species,” he said.
“Tales and photos of these enormous, fierce-looking fish are widely circulated–and sometimes dismissed as hoaxes,” states National Geogra-phic’s website.
The alligator gar fish poses only an indirect threat to humans–it has been unknown to attack people but its eggs are poisonous if eaten.
A fisherman from Daitkone village, which is in between Shwe Pyitha and Hmawbi townships in Yangon, caught the fish in a net, along with two catfish, at 5 pm on Jan 19. He sold the alligator gar fish at a fish market in Wah Taya port, and it was bought by Ko Nyi Min Htut for K.50,000 ($50), who informed MFF of the unusual catch.
“It was a tough fish to kill because of its scales. I had to use a knife that weighed more than a viss (1.6 kg). I wouldn’t attempt it again,” Ko Nyi Min Htut said.
The MFF reminded the public that introducing imported species of fish into Myanmar’s waters could have devastating effects on the ecosystem, as doing so disrupts the natural food chain by introducing new predators.
And according to National Geographic, the numbers of the seven species of gar fish have dramatically declined in recent times due to dams and dikes being built in North America, which has destroyed their breeding habitats.
The MFF said that it will investigate whether the alligator gar fish may have been deliberately introduced into Myanmar.
May Soe San