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Monday, 19 February, 2001, 18:19 GMT
Net closes in on Hannibal the fish

"Hannibal", safe behind glass after being caught
As Hannibal the Cannibal frightens cinema audiences around the world, a fishy namesake has fallen foul of the "law".

Environment Agency officials were stunned when they landed a 15lb Wels catfish during a routine survey of fish stocks at Shillinglee Lake, near Billingshurst in west Sussex.

They nicknamed the catfish "Hannibal" because of the amount he eats. He regurgitated 57 fish when captured.


We can only guess that someone had illegally put Hannibal in there for their angling fun

Environment Agency spokesman
According to the agency, the amount of damage done to eco-systems by the species makes it "worse than Jaws".

The Wels catfish is Europe's largest freshwater fish and is not indigenous to the UK. It usually lives in warmer European waters.

An agency spokesman said Hannibal would have destroyed the eco-system had he not been caught.

"It was very nasty looking," he said. "It had whiskers one foot long.

'Usually unstoppable'

"They are usually unstoppable, worse than Jaws - we were lucky to catch this one before it did too much damage."

Wels catfish, which have no natural predators in Britain, can grow up to eight feet long. They feed on fish, small mammals and water fowl.

The spokesman added: "We can only guess that someone had illegally put Hannibal in there for their angling fun.

Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal
Anthony Hopkins plays the real thing
"These are extremely powerful and muscular fish that put up a huge fight.

"Some people see them as a challenge to land them and then just throw them back.

"Meanwhile Hannibal has been wreaking havoc on the local wildlife, happily chomping through the fish stocks and upsetting the natural eco-balance."

Hannibal has now been re-homed at the Sea Life Centre in Brighton.

According to the www.swatman.demon.co.uk website, the current British record for a European Wels catfish - Latin name Silurus Glanis - is 62lbs.

The world record weight is 202lbs.

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19 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Hannibal chews up competition
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