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Garfish, 21 other species to be listed as 'invasive alien species'

An alligator gar is seen at the Wakayama Prefectural Museum of Natural History in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture. (Mainichi)

The Environment Ministry is set to add 22 species to a list of "invasive alien species" that are banned for import and sale, it was announced on March 14.

    Among the species that will be added to the list are the garfish family, including alligator gar -- the largest class of freshwater carnivore fish -- and the Chinese neck-striped turtle native to Taiwan. Twenty-one of the 22 species, including the Chinese neck-striped turtle, are set to be included on the list starting from September this year, while the garfish family is likely to become subject to controls in April 2018 as they are popular pets and the ministry needs to thoroughly inform their owners of the invasive species designation.

    The number of invasive alien species in Japan totals 132, including the latest addition.

    When a species is designated as an alien species, those who already own such a creature need to obtain permission to keep them, while breeding will be prohibited. While the species selected in the latest addition have not taken root in Japan, the ministry designated them as invasive species as a preventive move due to fears of gene disturbances when foreign species crossbreed with domestic species.

    Alligator gar is a freshwater fish native to North America that looks like an alligator and is popular as a pet. They have been spotted throughout Japan, including the Tama River that flows through Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture and other areas, as well as Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture.

    The Chinese neck-striped turtle is farm-raised in China and imported to Japan at low prices. The ministry aims to prevent the full-scale inflow of the species.

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