By Eloise Horsfield
AN invasive predatory fish has been introduced into Andalucia, threatening its fragile ecology.
The ferocious catfish, native of eastern Europe and western Asia, can grow to up to two metres long and weigh a whopping 100 kilos.
The species is threatening local ecosystems after authorites fished an eight kilo specimen out of Iznajar reservoir, in Cordoba.
This means it is now threatening all indigenous fish along the entire waterway system of the Guadalquivir basin.
“Given its predatory habits, this is a high risk for native fish and other vertebrates such as amphibians, birds and small mammals,” said Cordoba University professor Carlos Fernandez-Delgado, who estimates the species was introduced in Andalucia four to five years ago.
“The fact there were catfish here was a well-known secret,” said local fisherman Alejandro Ramos.
“And they are impossible to wipe out.”
The catfish, with its long moustache and an exceptional survival rate in shallow water due to high levels of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in its blood, is already abundant in Northern Spain’s River Ebro.
It was first introduced by a German biologist in 1974 and later encouraged to breed by fishing enthusiasts – and is currently a huge tourist magnet for UK and German anglers.
But the presence of the species in Andalucia is more worrying, partly because if it were to spread across the lower Guadalquivir it could damage commercial fishing reserves, near Sevilla.
To prevent a tourism surge, catching catfish has been banned, as has all tackle intended for large fish.
“We will not allow catfish to become a tourist attraction and we will prosecute anybody who encourages it,” said a Junta spokesman.
Steps are now being taken to establish whether the fish was smuggled into the Iznajar reservoir illegally, as well as considering methods of eradicating the fish.