Piranhas In NYC Toilet Bowls?

January 31, 2014

Okay, I gotta give the wordsmiths at the Department of Justice credit. They certainly came up with an eye-catchin' headline for a press release - one, which, frankly, I was compelled to read. You tell me if this one ain't a grabber:

According to the Feds, shortly after New York City had prohibited possession of piranhas in March 2011, Joel Rakower instructed a foreign supplier to falsely label on packing lists piranhas as silver tetras. On top of the NYC law, we got a federal law, the Lacey Act, which requires that you accurately disclose the kind of wildlife you bring into the USA. Apparently aware that the import of piranhas was restricted, during 2011 and 2012, Transship submitted fraudulent packing lists to the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Now I used to have a nice aquarium and, at times, it included some silver tetras. Trust me, those little fishies aint' piranhas. Okay, so, you might say - hey, Bill, what's the big deal with a few lousy fish; and, you know, if it were just one or two of those nasty biters, I'd agree with you . . . fuggedaboudit. On the other hand, we're talking about a large school of these vicious fish: some 39,548 piranhas, worth approximately $37,376. And these toothy critters were sold by Transship to retailers in several states.  

All of which led to Rakower and Transship being charged with violating the Lacey Act. On January 29, 2014, Rakower and Transship pleaded guilty. Rakower agreed to pay a $3,000 fine. Transship agreed to pay a $35,000 fine, to pay $35,000 in restitution to NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Law Enforcement, and to serve a two-year probation.

As so artfully and jaw-droppingly explained in the DOJ Press Release:

Piranhas are freshwater fish originating from South American rivers such as the Amazon, Orinoco, Guyana and the Sao Francisco river systems.  Piranhas are extremely aggressive and territorial, feeding on insects, fish, and larger prey such as amphibians, reptiles nd mammals.  As a result of piranhas' aggressiveness, 25 states have either banned or regulated piranhas, making them illegal to own or sell. Piranhas, an injurious species, could pose a serious risk if they escaped into native water systems, potentially damaging ecosystems through aggressive predation or injuring people or pets.  Tropical fish enthusiasts can contribute to this possibility by releasing piranhas into the wild when they grow too large for a tank.  Although piranhas originate from tropical waters, they are able to withstand much cooler water temperatures, creating fear that they may even become established in more northern US waters.   Effective regulation of piranha possession and sales within the United States depends on accurate reporting of piranha imports; concealing the fish upon import facilitates their entry into the black market in states that have banned or strictly regulated piranhas to protect state waters and ecosystems.

I'm not quite sure how I managed to miss this film. After all, David Hasselhoff, water-certified strippers, and piranhas -- how could you possibly go wrong with all of that? Also, the production values look superb and the screenplay seems quite imaginative.  Think Sharknado but without the sharks or the tornado. If nothing else, the Department of Justice and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation might want to use this clip as a Public Service Announcement. Be warned, piranhas are no laughing matter. There's something in the water!