Alligator Gar Sighted in Tokyo River

Posted by: mystery_man on August 4th, 2010

Japanese news has reported that an alligator gar has been sighted in a Tokyo river. The 1.5 meter long fish has recently been spotted by several eyewitnesses along the Nomikawa River in Ōtaku ward, Tokyo, Japan.

alligator gar

Alligator gars (Atractosteus spatula) are native to the lower Mississippi river valley and Gulf Coast states as well as parts of Mexico. These ray finned fish are so named for the crocodilian –like head, dual row of large, formidable teeth, and overall reptilian appearance. The size of these fish is also comparably to an alligator, and growing up to 8 to 10 feet in length, the alligator gar is the largest freshwater fish in North America. Alligator gars are not found in the wild in Japan.

Japanese authorities are perplexed as to how the gar got into the river, but it is most likely an exotic pet that was released when it became too large for the owner to handle. The aquarium trade in Japan is a booming business and many large species such as the alligator gar are readily available for purchase.

Authorities are trying to catch the monstrous fish due to the threat it may pose to native fish in the river, as well as birds, turtles, and other wildlife.

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6 Responses to “Alligator Gar Sighted in Tokyo River”

  1. dogu4 responds:

    Ironic that this news comes as the unintentionally introduced exotic asian carp are making their presence felt in the Great Lakes region of the Missisisippi here in the USA. Cheers.

  2. Sordes responds:

    Several years ago (2004) there was already another case in which a much smaller gar of around 25 cm was caught at China by factory workers. It was probably no alligator gar, but a smaller gar species. In some regions of Thailand there are also fishing lakes which are stocked with all kinds of non-native fish species, including alligator gars and even arapaimas.

  3. cryptocajun responds:

    There were reports of an alligator gar found in the Phoenix metro area a few weeks ago. Strange how they seem to keep popping up all over the globe. I am from New Orleans so have had a lot of experience with these fish and its good to see that their numbers are holding strong. I have also been hearing about alligator snapping turtles being found in non-native geographic areas lately.

  4. Sharmz responds:

    Smaller gars have been captured here in Malaysia too. A friend caught one on his line in a pond near my house. Big arapaimas were captured in a river a few years back.

  5. mystery_man responds:

    cryptocajun- It’s interesting that you mention snapping turtles, because that is another species that has been increasingly popping up around Japan as well. There has been quite a few cases of these animals being found in ponds around the country. I partly blame the poorly regulated pet trade in Japan. There are many, many species such as the snapping turtles that are increasingly available for the pet trade here and an alarming increase in the types of exotic species that are for sale. You can go into a department store and buy snapping turtles, monitor lizards, marmosets, and all manner of animals that have no business being there.

    Although there is a blacklist for dangerous invasive species in Japan, an animal first must go under review and demonstrate that it has become a threat in order to get on it, which by then it is too late.

    Anyway, it is interesting to hear of these other cases of out of place alligator gars popping up around the world. I suppose since it could be considered a “cool looking fish” (yes, that’s a scientific term 🙂 ), then many aquarists purchase them without any idea of what they are getting themselves into. That happens all the time already with more available species such as oscars and arawanas. As alligator gars become more popular, this is bound to occur from time to time.

  6. scosmo451 responds:

    People who release from aquariums really bug me, and I have no doubt that’s what happened here. There’s no excuse for that kind of irresponsibility.

    Oh, btw, isn’t the white sturgeon the largest freshwater fish in North America?

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