Pacu (Portuguese pronunciation: [paˈku]) is a common name used to refer to several common species of omnivorous South American freshwater fish that are related to the piranha. Pacu and piranha do not have similar teeth, the main difference being jaw alignment; piranha have pointed, razor-sharp teeth in a pronounced underbite, whereas pacu have squarer, straighter teeth, like a human, and a less severe underbite, or a slight overbite. Additionally, full-grown pacu are much larger than piranha, reaching up to 0.9 m (3 feet) and 25 kg (55 pounds) in the wild.
” Pacu were introduced in 1994 to the Sepik River, and in 1997 to the Ramu river as a food source, due to overfishing of native species. Local people blame the fish for outcompeting native species, including juvenile crocodiles, as well as for several attacks on humans.”
I just watched an episode of a fishing program called “River Monsters” on ABC television Australia. It is a show made by Jeremy Wade, a marine biologist who travels the world in search of “fresh water” fits with a reputation for killing.
Anyway, this episode focused on attacks on the Sepik river in PNG and a number of attacks involving something in the water which had a restoration for attacking the testicles and genitals of native fishermen. The locals called… it “Ball Cutter” – ouch!
By the end of the program, the fish responsible was identified as the Pacu.
The Pacu was introduced into the river system some 20 years ago by the fisheries authorities as a way to supplement the fish stocks for the increasing population along the river. But there is a major problem with its introduction into PNG.
Pacu are close cousins if the Amazing piranha fish. The piranha is a carnivore – it eats meat and flesh. The Pacu was thought to be vegetarian, but I’d now known to be an omnivore – it prefers nuts and fruits typically found in its native waters of the Amazon, but also eats flesh if nothing else is available.
Pacu generally have small raspy teeth, like rough sandpaper until they grow larger. Once they reach 2 or 3 get these extremely powerful fish develop lower teeth which are extraordinarily similar to human teeth on their litter jaws. These teeth are capped with very skirt, needle like rippers. They are amongst the largest most most powerful of the piranhas.
Since their introduction in the Sepik, local villagers report vast reductions in grass and reed islands in the Lake, reduced populations of all other fish species, reduction in cichlids numbers and breeding, and attacks on birds from the Pacu. In short, the entire river ecology has been stressed by the Laden’s of this introduced fish. Over time, the fish are likely to spread to other drivers of PNG.
My purpose in writing all this is simply to let you know of the risks of Pacu. Skulls you ever go swimming in an area populated by these fish you are at risk of sudden and violent attack.
Also, be aware of what this fish dies to the ecology of river systems. They are a disaster. No doubt the authorities axed in goid faith in Sepik, but they were acting on the behaviours they understood about smaller Pacu, probably not taken the larger ones are dabbed not only to the river system, but pose a direct that to human life. Note: Pacu were also introduced to the Ramu River in 1997
I am including the Wikipedia link for the Pacu fish below.
My very best to all in PNG.