Fighting an Invasive with Fork and Knife

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

When you hear the word tilapia, you may think of a savory meal with lemon butter sauce, but you probably don’t think of the term “invasive species.”

The tilapia are great to eat. They’re raised as a food fish, and they’re quite tasty. They’re quite popular in restaurants. But the problem is when they’re in our natural waters they are upsetting the ecosystem.

Tilapia have been in Texas for decades. They were originally brought in as a food source to be raised in fish farms, but eventually made they’re way into Texas waters.

Gary Garrett, a Texas Parks and Wildlife fisheries biologist, says tilapia can be a threat to large mouth bass and other native species.

They build big pit nests and in doing that they stir up a lot of the settlement. And it’s been shown, for example, with large mouth bass, all that sediment stirred up and settling back down will often kill large mouth bass eggs.

When tilapia do this, they can potentially damage the entire ecosystem because of the intricate food chain.

Texas Parks and Wildlife does have state regulations for tilapia, but because tilapia are found all over the state, they are difficult to control. But if you like to fish, Garrett says you can help.

Don’t throw them back. If you catch them, keep them.

So next time you catch a tilapia, turn on the grill and get cooking. You’ll be doing yourself and the Texas ecosystem a favor.

That’s our show…with research and writing help from Gretchen Mahan. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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