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RIVER MONSTER COMES TO FLORIDA: THE ARAPAIMA

RIVER MONSTER COMES TO FLORIDA

There has been a lot printed about invasive species. The climate in Florida, and the vast natural area of the Everglades allows a number of land and water species to gain a dangerous foothold in Florida. The latest coming to our attention is the fearsome Arapaima, a monster fish that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds. A dead one recently washed ashore in Cape Coral’s Jaycee Park along the Caloosahatchee River, which runs from Lake Okeechobee west to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Arapaima is native to the Amazon and Essequibo basins of South America.

It is one of the world's largest freshwater fish. They are an important source of food in South America and the native populations have declined due to overfishing and habitat loss. It has, however been introduced to other tropical areas. The arapaima has large blackish-green scales and red markings. Its scales have a hard, outer layer increasing toughness and providing strength and protection that allows the fish to remain mobile despite its heavy armor. The Arapaima depends on surface air to breathe. In addition to gills, it has a modified swim bladder, composed of lung-like tissue, which enables it to extract oxygen from the air. The Arapaima is an eating machine with a diet of fish, insects, crustaceans, and small land animals that walk near shore.

Arapaima produce boneless steaks and are considered a delicacy. In the Amazon region, locals often salt and dry the meat,

which is important in a region with little refrigeration. Arapaima are referred to as the "cod of the Amazon", and can be prepared in the same way as traditional salted cod. In 2013, Whole Foods began selling farm-raised arapaima in the United States as a cheaper alternative to halibut or Chilean sea bass.