Shocked angler pulls piranha from pond

A feared piranha has been caught in a British pond, thousands of miles from its common habitat in South America.

Angler Derek Plum, 46, caught the fish, regarded as the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world, at Radnor Park in Folkestone, Kent.

The 1lb 4oz catch was identified as a red-bellied piranha, whose diet consists mainly of fish, insects and worms.

Mr Plum told the Sun newspaper: "It took about 15 minutes to reel it in. When it emerged, it was thrashing around and was going crazy.

"The other fishermen were yelling 'You've caught a piranha'. I couldn't believe it."

The Environment Agency said it was probably placed in the pond once it became too large for its tank after being kept as a domestic pet.

Experts say that while piranhas would not survive in UK rivers, the introduction of non-native species poses a serious threat to native wildlife.

Fish species commonly found in the pond include carp, tench and roach.

Reaching up to 14 inches long, the piranha is mainly found in the Amazon River basin in South America and is infamous for its razor-sharp teeth and for hunting prey in packs.

In shoals, the piranha ambushes its prey, stripping the flesh of large animals such as anaconda snakes or even jaguar within minutes.

Qualified fishery scientist Ben Weir, of Angler's Mail magazine, said today: "On the photographic evidence that I've seen, I believe it's a red-bellied piranha.

"I used to keep them and they would sharpen their teeth on the glass of the tank, so I know one when I see one.

"It's probably become too big for its tank but it's extremely irresponsible to release it like this.

"They are a top-end predator. I'm extremely shocked that this has happened because fish aren't keen on acute stress.

"They will keel over in a matter of seconds, but like everything in life there are freaks."

An Environment Agency spokesman said: "Native wildlife is thriving due to the work we've done to improve our rivers but releasing exotic pets and plants into our waterways can cause serious harm.

"Rather than dumping things in the wild, we would urge people to seek advice about what to do with exotic species."

Paul Foot, chairman of the Folkestone and Shepway Angling Club, said someone was seen emptying a bin into the pond the week before the piranha was caught.

He said: "It's 100% kosher because our secretary, who is a professional angler, saw it.

"Our pond gets dumped full of goldfish and the odd koi carp because people cannot afford to keep them.

"It's unusual that this fish survived because the weather has been so cold.

"Someone was seen during the week emptying a bin into the pond so it's possible that it had only been in there a few days.

"Unfortunately, our pond does get used as a dumping ground for people's unwanted pets."