By SHARON UDASIN 02/14/2012 03:57
Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Department confiscates a smuggled shipment of illegal predator fish.
SPOTTED GAR predator fish By Hagai Neuberger

Inspectors from the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Department confiscated a smuggled shipment of illegal predator fish on Sunday in a delivery that was supposed to contain ornamental fish, the ministry reported.

Inspectors discovered the piscine contraband at the airport during their standards checks of incoming agricultural products, according to the ministry. The species, colloquially called the spotted gar and scientifically the Lepisosteus oculatus, is known as the “crocodile fish” in Hebrew, not to be confused with the “Crocodilefish” of the Platycephalidae family in English. The spotted gar is a forbidden import because it is a predatory fish that reproduces in freshwater and is likely to destroy indigenous fish, the ministry said.

Capable of becoming extremely large – up to 70-100 centimeters long and 3 kilograms in weight – the spotted gars can obliterate entire fish populations. Inspectors discovered about 220 of the animal in the delivery from Singapore on Sunday morning – all about two months old and 15cm. long. Presumably, the fish were intended for sale in pet shops, as they are considered rare and profitable species, the ministry said. The office has opened up an investigation on the issues, while the importer has acknowledged in writing that the import of the spotted gar is, in fact, illegal, according to the ministry.

“The introduction of species that do not exist in Israel would cause great damage to the ecological balance of flora and fauna in Israel and would harm the marine population, and of constitutes environmental damage,” Hagai Neuberger, director of the inspectors’ unit in the ministry’s fish and aquaculture department, said.” The Agriculture Ministry will continue to enforce the smuggling of forbidden fish imports. I urge the public to report every suspected violation in the fish industry.”