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Alien Fish Escape Threatens Native Species

AUSTRALIA - An exotic fish species, commonly kept as a tropical aquarium fish, has been discovered in the wild for the first time in New South Wales.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) fisheries ecosystem research technicians discovered six live Platys at Medowie, when undertaking survey work in a drainage channel at Ferodale Park, near Newcastle.

"The Platy is native to northern and central America and is known to have been introduced to 18 other countries. It has previously been found in creeks around Brisbane and far North Queensland.

"While these fish may look cute, this discovery is concerning as it is a new alien species which has been either purposely or accidentally released into the waterway," ," said Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald

Platys have a high reproductive rate and if they breed and spread they have the potential to impact native fish species by competing for food and habitat. There is also concern that they may spread disease and parasites to native aquatic life.

DPI is now investigating how the Platys got into the Campvale drain, the artificial channel that leads into Grahamstown Dam - Newcastle's main water supply. It is conducting surveys within the drain and Dam in a bid to find the source. MInister Macdonald also said that the waterways in the area are also affected by the invasive noxious weed, Alligator weed, another exotic pest.

"The keeping of aquatic plants and ornamental fish in aquaria or ponds is popular, but it is vitally important these organisms are never released into any waterways. Exotic fish and plant species have the potential to devastate the environment and native species, and cost millions of dollars to control," he added

NSW applies heavy penalties for the illegal release of live fish and aquatic plant species into water courses.