The delivery of a dead “monster” Nile tilapia — that weighed in at 16 pounds and stretched more than two feet long — has state officials thinking of new ways to encourage fishermen to try to hook the invasive species.
Typically, Nile tilapia are about 8 inches long and weigh two to five pounds, Dan Dennison, spokesman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today.
A Hawaii island man brought his dead, pet Nile tilapia to state aquatic biologist Troy Sakihara on Nov.7 after Sakihara had been featured in news reports about an invasion of Nile tilapia in the Wailoa and Waiakea waters of Hawaii Island, Dennison said.
A previous “invasion” of black-chin tilapia also occurred on Kaua‘i’s north shore, Dennison said.
Sakihara said the Nile tilapia he was given represented the biggest he had ever seen.
Sakihara’s boss, Brian Neilson, the administrator of DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources said in a statement today that:
“I was amazed, as a fisherman myself, but also a little freaked out by how big these fish can actually get. Especially when you think about how devastating tilapia can be to some of our native organisms, a two-foot-long, 16-pound fish can become a major predator. It’s a little scary.
“It’s great to see the public awareness and support and people bringing in tilapia, as they’re hearing the important message that invasive species don’t need to be in our waterways,” Neilson said in his statement. “You look at the size of the fish that was recently brought in and it’s not a stretch to imagine how they can gobble up all the food for native species and they’re actually eating fish like ‘ama‘ama or ‘o‘opu.”
Sakihara is now forming a working group to work with DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources to develop strategies to address the effects of tilapia on Hawai‘i waterways and will seek input from the fishing community.
The Division of Aquatic Resources wants fishermen to catch as many tilapia as they want and is considering hosting a community fishing tournament early next year “as one component, of a multitude of steps to try and eliminate them from wild, native, waters,” Dennison said in a statement.