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Entrepreneur tackles invasive 'devil fish' after turning species into popular pet treats — here's how he did it

Dogs tend to be less picky than humans.

Dogs tend to be less picky than humans.

Photo Credit: Pezzy Pets

Invasive species are all over the place, largely because of human activities. But one entrepreneur has figured out a way to reduce the number of one type of invasive fish by turning it into pet treats, Goodness Exchange reported.

The acari is a type of catfish that is native to South America. However, in recent years, it has made its way up to Texas, Florida, and Mexico, where it is known as a suckermouth or pez diablo, aka "devil fish." The species is popular among aquarium owners for its ability to suck up incredible amounts of algae — which may be how it found its way up north in the first place — but that same ability makes it a resource-depleting nightmare in ecosystems where it is not native, as NPR detailed.

Though the fish is edible, getting people to eat it has been something of a problem, per the news outlet, as many erroneously believe that it is poisonous.

Dogs tend to be less picky than humans, though, which led entrepreneur Mike Mitchell to begin marketing it to owners instead, via his company Pezzy Pets. The website describes the product as "single and limited ingredient treats made exclusively from invasive fish." The snacks are high in protein, per Goodness Exchange, and come in biodegradable packaging.

Mitchell first came across the fish in 2014 and has been trying to market and sell the devil fish since at least 2017, first as fillets for humans to eat, then as a fish jerky that he hoped would disguise its somewhat unappetizing appearance, and now as pet treats. 

Getting someone to eat these fish is a big step in protecting local waters for the native species that live there and the fishers and other visitors that love them.

Mitchell's persistence in coming up with a way to remove these invasive fish from North American waters is admirable. Other similar efforts to reduce populations of invasive fish species by eating them include a tournament to catch the invasive snakehead in Maryland, another tournament in Illinois to catch Asian carp, and an initiative to increase the culinary popularity of the invasive lionfish.

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