Pleco Invasion – Trouble in Blue Spring State Park

This is Blue Spring State Park, in Orange
City, Florida. It’s a popular tourist destination, largely
because of its crystal clear spring that pumps out over 100 million gallons of
fresh water each day. And during the winter, this spring is one
of the largest gathering sites in Florida for manatees. Despite how they look, manatees only have
about an inch of fat and depend on warm water for survival. So places like Blue Spring are critical for
them. Unfortunately, there is currently an infestation
of another animal in the spring, armored catfish. Exactly what kind these are is up for debate, but they were very likely sold in the aquarium
trade as the common pleco. Someone has let these South American fish
loose into the river system, and they’re reproducing in huge numbers. This may not seem like a big deal, but invasive species like this pose a number
of risks. First, the manatees come to the spring to
seek refuge. They have frequently been seen doing 360 degree
rolls in an attept to deter the catfish from clinging to them. This is a huge source of stress and detrimental
to their well being. Second, the catfish dig out the soil so that
the females can lay their eggs. In large numbers, this can cause significant
erosion, transforming the entire ecosystem. Divers are attempting to contain these fish
but it’s an uphill battle. So I urge you, please, never ever release your fish into the wild. It may seem like you’re giving that fish a
better life, but the overall impact can be enormous.

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