An aggressive foreign fish that can move across dry land and choke birds and other fish is threatening to make its way onto Australian soil from Papua New Guinea.
Researchers and rangers are monitoring the climbing perch which have already overrun waterways on two Queensland islands in the Torres Strait.
The noxious fish can last several days on land by using lungs to breathe.
Furthermore, despite being a freshwater fish, they can survive in briny water.
James Cook University scientist Dr Nathan Waltham said not only was the fish aggressive, if birds or other fish eat them they can die.
“Their gill covers, they can flex them out and get caught in the throats of fish and birds, so that leads to the animal dying,” Dr Waltham said.
Dr Waltham said if the climbing perch were not managed in the Torres Strait, they could make their way to the northern Australia mainland.
“We’ve only found them on Boigu and Saibai islands so these are the islands that are closest to Papua New Guinea,” Dr Waltham said.
“They haven’t been recorded any further south but the threat is if they aren’t managed … then they actually may move through the Torres Strait and move into northern Australia.”
Perch ‘could survive fishing boat trip to Australia’
Director of TropWater at James Cook University Damien Burrows said the climbing perch could survive a trip from the Torres Strait on the bottom of a fishing boat.
“Anecdotes are that they are carried between villages on various islands,” he said.
“So a trip in a boat across the Torres Strait is not out of the question.”
Dr Burrows said if they were not managed effectively, then the door would be left open for others to follow.
“It’s a bit of a melting pot, there are some pretty nasty exotic fishes,” he said.
The research team is helping to educate Torres Strait fishermen and residents to identify the fish and know to throw it away before coming to mainland Australia.
Fisheries Queensland said it had not received any further reports of the fish moving from the Torres Strait.
“There is no viable means of eradicating the fish from these islands and an awareness campaign was conducted with island communities to help prevent any further dispersal of these exotic fish,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.