The aggressive, monstrous arapaima is thought to be native only to South America’s Amazon River basin. This Florida woman, however, found one a hemisphere away.
If you’ve watched River Monsters like most of us Outsiders, then you’ve seen an arapaima before. An armored tank of a fish, these giants can surpass 3 meters in length (10 ft) and weigh over 200 lbs. Their massive bodies are pure, sleek muscle, which they use to propel themselves in hunting prey. Arapaima are also capable of launching themselves out of their river homes and into the air like torpedoes, giving rise to many Amazonian legends. Did we mention they can also breathe air?
If the arapaima itself isn’t incredible enough, finding one on a North American river shore absolutely is. And that’s exactly what this Florida woman did.
This past weekend, the Leah Getts went for a typical walk through Cape Coral, Florida’s Jaycee Park with her son. Seeing the occasional fish carcass along the shore isn’t unusual, as the bordering Caloosahatchee River is a thriving ecosystem. She was not prepared, however, to see the carcass of a fish nearly as large as herself.
“It was bigger than my 7-year-old. I thought that is nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Getts tells local NBC2 News. “It was kind of white with a pinkish tail… And it had a huge kind of open bass looking kind of mouth. It didn’t look like anything I had heard of or seen before.”
Amazonian Arapaima Shocks Florida Ecologists
And for good reason. These Amazonian giants are from an entirely different hemisphere. Shocked and confused, Getts put a photo on social media with her phone to see if any other Floridians could identify the mammoth creature. Upon photographing it, she could see the fish still had a hook in its gaping mouth. Soon, others were chiming in, and Getts had a positive I.D. on the hook-bearing giant.
“They were saying it was an Arapaima, and I looked at pictures and it was dead on.” she says. But confirmation only made the fish’s presence in Florida far more puzzling.
Local authorities were notified, and ecologist for the Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani was brought in to investigate. The sight of an arapaima is immediately concerning to Cassani. He’s familiar with the aggressive, hardy species, and worries that they may finally be making their ways into Florida waters.
“The primary concern with arapaima is that they would become established and reproduce naturally.” Cassani states. His concerns are beyond valid, too. Other giant, foreign predatory species, like the python, now thrive in Florida and are ravaging ecosystems that have no means to support their alien presence.
Moreover, Cassani adds that South Florida’s climate is warming rapidly alongside the rest of the world. As it does, it will become more and more hospitable to the arapaima, which thrives in the warm waters of the Amazon.
WATCH: See Florida’s Arapaima for Yourself
Florida is so concerned about the arapaima, in fact, that previous FWC risk studies have been performed to see if the species could or will eventually inhabit their waterways.
“This risk study done on Arapaima was done close to 10 years ago.” Cassani notes. And as any ecologist will tell you, a lot has changed in the last decade.
“Obviously a big aggressive predatory fish is popular amongst anglers. But the risk to the ecosystem far outweighs the recreational value of the species,” Cassani warns.
View NBC 2’s coverage – and startling footage – of the gigantic Amazonian predator below:
The discovery comes just days after Remains of Missing Fisherman Found inside Monstrous Crocodile. For all the latest in outdoors headlines, stick with your fellow Outsiders.