Summer might be winding down, but dedicated beach-goers could be faced with a new menace that could deal a fate worse than drowning … for men at least.
A local fisherman caught a 21.5cm pacu in the Øresund near the island of Saltholm, just to the east of Copenhagen Airport.
The pacu, a cousin to the feared South American carnivorous piranha, is armed with big, molar-like teeth that have been known to chomp off the testicles of men, mistaking their family jewels for nuts.
"It is known as a plant-eater, but having said that, it goes for a little bit of everything," Peter Rask Møller, a fish expert at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said. "In unclear waters, it can mistakenly go for anything that hangs and dangles. It can crush nuts and has very sharp teeth."
Known as ‘the ball cutter’ in parts of the world, the pacu has reportedly killed local fisherman in Papua New Guinea who bled to death after being castrated by the fish.
Experts said that there was no need to panic, but still found reason to recommend that men protect their vulnerable parts when swimming in the sea.
“It will be exciting, bordering on the frightening, to see if the fish was a one-off or if it is a species that we will see more of,” Møller wrote in a press release. “This is the first time that the species has been captured in the ocean in Europe.”
The pacu was caught on August 4 by amateur fisherman Einar Lindgreen, who emptied his eel trap to find the toothy pacu flopping about. People at the local harbour thought it was a piranha, but the fish was sent to the Natural History Museum of Denmark, which identified it as a pacu.
Weighing up to 25 kilos, the pacu hails from South America but has spread to other areas of the world and is considered an invasive species in large parts of the US and Asia. Møller said that pacus are sometimes kept as pets, so the one that ended up in the Øresund could have been the result of someone emptying their aquarium into the sea or a nearby stream.
It is only the second time that a pacu has been caught in Europe, the first being in 2002 when a fisherman hooked one near a power plant by the Odra River in Poland. The Odra empties into the Baltic Sea, not far from Denmark.
“To be 100 percent sure of the species, we will now do some genetic testing since there are several species of pacu that resemble one another when young,” Møller said. “In the aquaculture industry, there are also hybrids being produced.”
The pacu is generally vegetarian, using its, human-like molars to crush nuts and other fruit, but also eats other fish and smaller animals. It is very aggressive can quickly damage local ecosystems.