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Image: Dog sitting next to Pezzy Pets Invasive Fish Pet Treats

Pet Treats Made from Invasive Fish Solve Major Problem in Mexico

Here’s some food for thought…Have you ever considered how lucky we humans are to have been at the top of the food chain for the last 2.5 million years? 1 Evolution has put us in a position that allows us to eat almost anything we want—with the exception of a few poison berries and such. But, have we ever really stopped to consider how we could be using our hunting, gathering, and digestive superpowers to make the world a better place for the environment and our pets?

Nature has a remarkable talent for creating a purpose for every living thing on earth. But when some species wind up where they were never meant to live, they become more of a burden instead of one of nature’s miracles. Today, we’ll discover the brilliant hidden use for an invasive fish species that is just as unwanted as it is ugly…until now, that is!

Image: Dog sitting next to Pezzy Pets Invasive Fish Pet Treats
Courtesy of Pezzy Pets

These invasive fish SUCK!

Ever heard of a “Devil Fish”? How about a “Suckerfish”? These are both nicknames for the Acari fish, a species of catfish native to South America known for its “suckermouth” and hunger for cleaning algae from freshwater habitats.

Somehow, in the last few decades (most likely aided by humans), Acari have made their way into the freshwater rivers and lakes of Mexico, Texas, and Florida and have become a serious problem. These devil fish have sucked up the algae that countless native species need to survive, and without any natural predators in these areas, the devil fish have been breeding like crazy!

It’s not uncommon to hear fishermen grumble with disappointment when emptying nets full of devil fish, especially in Tobasco, Mexico, where their usual catch of tilapia and snook has dwindled significantly over the last 20 years. On average, devil fish make up 70% of a fisherman’s daily catch in these areas. Until recently, devil fish were thought to be inedible and, therefore, pretty useless. The invasive species has not only affected fishermen’s livelihoods, their sharp scales get caught in fishing nets, and disposing of them creates extra labor. Some fishermen have resorted to burning them, burying them, and even throwing the pests off a cliff!

Wait! Here’s where it gets good…

We’ve talked about how lucky we are to be on the tippy top of the food chain, right? But one of the other great parts of being human is that we get to have pets! Most pet owners would do just about anything to secure the happiness of their beloved furbaby. Don’t you agree?

Mike Mitchell, an Entrepreneur and conscious consumer, saw the problems that devil fish were causing and, in 2014, sought to bridge the gap between loving our freshwater resources and loving our pets. VOILA! The brilliant idea to combine the two passions became a solid foundation for his pet treat business, Pezzy Pets Treats!

From the fishing net to net profit.

Pezzy Pets sells pet treats made from dehydrated devil fish, and pets are loving them! These carefully prepared treats are high in protein, have no added ingredients, and arrive wrapped in 100% biodegradable packaging. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Mike’s journey to success wasn’t without obstacles, though. He had to help people overcome the stigma of the devil fish and understand that they are safe to eat for both pets and humans. He also had to develop a special technique to filet and preserve the particularly spiny fish.

This short video by Insider News chronicles the process from start to finish. Dive in and see it for yourself!

Via: Insider News 2

Pretty incredible, right? That’s not all…Pezzy Pets Treats has expanded their line of sustainable pet treats to include treats made from invasive lionfish that have been wreaking havoc off the coasts of Florida, as well as invasive silver carp in Illinois! You can learn more about Pezzy on their website, shop their pet treats, and peek at some cute dogs enjoying devil fish treats on Instagram.

Furthermore, Mike has teamed up with restaurateur Lupita Vidal to get humans curious about eating devil fish. According to Lupita, it’s been a tough sell because devil fish are rather unappetizing to look at, but when people get up the nerve to try it, they usually end up enjoying it!

Their strategies to end the stigma about the fish appear to be working, as other eateries are gradually incorporating it into their menus. A notion to rebrand the fish and call it by its real name, “Acari,” is beginning to take off, in an attempt to make it more appetizing and less intimidating. 3

Will you give devil fish a try?

With their combined efforts, Mike, Lupita, and the fishing communities have successfully removed over 100 tons of fish from Tobasco waters! Pop the champagne—that is a LOT of fish! Additionally, having this outlet to sell the devil fish has created a double (sometimes triple) income boost for the Tobasco fishermen. I’m pleased to report that they no longer need to throw their day’s catch off a cliff.

Still, 25,000 tons of invasive devil fish remain in these fresh waters. We’ve got some serious eating to do! Where do we even start?

One household can only consume so many devil fish, but you can make a difference by sharing this article with the pet lovers in your life! And, of course, the next time you offer your dog or cat a snack, consider something that will have a positive impact on people, the planet, and your pet’s wellbeing. Nothing tastes better than a good deed.

Keep dreaming, and notice the beauty around you!

Here are some other great examples of how we could eat our way to a more sustainable future!

Use Your Love for Eating to Save the Coral Reef!

Love food? This is one way you can use that love for good. Lionfish populations have gone out of control in areas that these fish were never meant to be and they’re endangering coral reefs. But we can use our stomachs to help!

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Get The Most Out of Your Groceries: Easy Ways to Use Food Scraps

Wait! Before you throw away that banana peel or compost your coffee grounds, you can give them another life. Here are some simple ways to start reducing waste and maximizing your grocery budget.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
The Ancient Solution to a New Problem: Solving Our Invasive Wild Pig Predicament

Wild pigs are one of the most destructive invasive species in the United States. They’re devastating ecosystems, destroying agriculture, killing other animals, and costing billions of dollars in damage. But there’s something that we can do, and it all ties back to who our species is at our roots.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

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  1. McRae, Mike. “Humans Were Actually Apex Predators for 2 Million Years, New Study Finds.” ScienceAlert, 7 Apr. 2021, http://www.sciencealert.com/real-paleo-diets-may-have-been-far-more-carnivorous-than-anything-we-d-eat-today. Accessed 30 May 2024.
  2. News, Insider. “How ‘Devil Fish’ Invaded North America. Could Pet Treats Be the Solution? | True Cost | Insider News.” YouTube, YouTube Video, 8 Aug. 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgBiizGVe5Q. Accessed 30 May 2024.‌
  3. Robertson, Amy E. “Invasive ‘Devil Fish’ Plague Mexico’s Waters. Can’t Beat ‘Em? Eat ‘Em.” NPR, NPR, 18 Oct. 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/10/18/557599300/invasive-devil-fish-plague-mexicos-waters-cant-beat-em-eat-em. Accessed 30 May 2024.
Image: Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Renee Laroche-Rheaume

Outreach Coordinator & Writer

Renee is a graduate of FIDM, and has held jobs in several industries such as apparel manufacturing, retail, professional office work, and even hospitality. Her creative outlook, wide variety of experiences, and desire to notice the beauty around us make her a great addition to the Goodness Exchange team.

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