City on hunt for piranha in river

China Daily, July 12, 2012

A southern Chinese city has declared war against man-biting fish after two people were attacked by a piranha.

Fishing fans fish for man-biting piranhas in Liuzhou, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Wednesday. [China Daily]

Fishing fans fish for man-biting piranhas in Liuzhou, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Wednesday. [China Daily] 

The government of Liuzhou, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, has called on its residents to hunt for this type of fish, which are native to South America.

Those who catch a piranha, dead or alive, will get 1,000 yuan ($157) as a reward, the government said on Tuesday.

The bounty has prompted professional fishermen and residents alike to flock to the Liujiang River to fish.

The warrant for the man-biting fish came after three of them were seen in the river, one of which bit the left hand of the man when he was bathing his dog, as well as biting the finger of his friend in Liuzhou on Saturday afternoon. One fish was caught but the other two escaped.

The local government has confirmed that they were of the species Serrasalmus sanchezi, a kind of piranha, which are mostly found in the Amazon River, an announcement from the local government said.

Though they cannot live in water that is cooler than 15 C, and chances for them to reproduce in the river are slight, they still pose great risks to local fish and may hurt swimmers in the river.

"Fishing with nets is not allowed in the section of the river that flows through the city, but we have made an exemption. Five fishing boats with experienced fishermen aboard have been deployed on the river since Monday," said Wei Yongwen, head of local livestock and fishery bureau. "In addition, more than 40 other fishermen from the local fishing association have joined us as well. They all use small pieces of pork as bait."

"But the fish hunt will last only for a week," he said. "After that the net-fishing ban will be resumed."No piranha had been caught as of Wednesday afternoon, but many mandarin fish, another type of carnivorous fish but one does not attack people, were caught by the net.

"It proves that this method of fishing piranha with meat can work," Wei said.

Many residents have joined the fish hunt using rods. They also use pork as bait.

Fishing with a rod is allowed in Liuzhou.

Zhang Kaibo, the man bitten by a piranha on Saturday, said he totally agreed with the government on hunting for the fish and he would like to join in if he were free.

Liu Junjie, 47, who loves swimming in the Liujiang River, said: "It's horrible to know that the river has such fish. I will not swim there anymore. Neither will my friends. I'll pray they catch them soon."

The large financial awards have prompted more residents to come fishing. "Some of my friends went fishing on Tuesday. Just think, the money they get from three piranha equals their monthly income. Could you resist it?" said Zhu Feijie, 28, a resident from Liuzhou. "Some of my friends in Nanning envy this reward, and even want to buy some piranha to hand in to the government for the money," she said, but added that she was joking.

Wei, head of the local livestock and fishery bureau, said the government has strict measures to confirm whether the piranha is caught from the river, such as providing pictures.

The government may spend thousands of yuan awarding people who catch piranha because there may be more than two in the river. "But for the safe environment of the Liujiang River and for the swimmers, it's worthwhile," he said.