This Europe: Anglers in northern Italy find new bait to catch river Po's giant catfish: live kittens

Anglers from northern Europe are using live kittens for bait while fishing in the Po river for the gigantic sheat-fish, according to police.

Giuseppe Lagana, a police officer in Mantua in the Po valley, said that the first case was detected in May. But Mr Lagana, who doubles as a commander with Ampana, Italy's voluntary nature protection force, said the incident was not isolated.

"We've received a lot of indications that there are other such cases," he said. "During one of our last nocturnal patrols, one boat managed to evade our checks. It ignored warnings and cleared off with its lights extinguished. We suspect that this was also one of these fishermen without a conscience. Using live kittens to catch sheat-fish is an unheard-of cruelty."

The sheat-fish is a freshwater catfish that can grow to a length of two metres or more. It can weigh up to 660lb (300kg). It has decimated the traditional fish of the Po, Italy's longest river, since its introduction some years ago, and has colonised all the waterways around Mantua. The fish, which has a jutting lower jaw and the long curling whiskers of the catfish, is omnivorous, and when it has exhausted local supplies of carp and eel is happy to snap up ducks and rats. The largest specimens think nothing of charging anglers' boats. They also eat each other.

Traditionally, Italians have been sniffy about sheat-fish, holding that its meat is not worth eating.

Sometimes the fish is passed off to credulous restaurateurs as sturgeon. But the big-game challenges of catching the brute have proved irresistible.

Anglers descend on the Po, pile into rented houseboats and set out to do battle, with or without a secret stash of kittens.

Mr Lagana said that another cruel method of catching the fish was to spear an eel with a harpoon and dangle it in the water, where its agonised thrashings were intolerably tempting for the big beast of the deeps.

Ugly though these practices are, Mr Lagana holds out little hope of stopping them.

"Last year, the voluntary guards in the region covered 15,000 kilometres [9,300 miles]," he said. "But to catch these squalid people in the act is very difficult, even using co-ordinated land and water night patrols."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea