The Fisheries Administration (FiA) has announced the confiscation and destruction of piranhas, a notorious species of carnivorous fish with razor-sharp teeth, that it said had been smuggled into Cambodia.

Khov Kuong, deputy director-general of the the FiA – which operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – noted in the August 13 announcement that some types of piranhas, commonly referred to as sparrow fish in Cambodia, are extremely dangerous.

“This type of fish is completely prohibited by law from being imported, yet some traders manage to smuggle it into the country through various means,” he said.

“After receiving the information through social media sharing, expert officials of the FiA went to the fish shop that imported the carnivorous fish and educated the owner about it being dangerous and prohibited by law,” he said.

“Officials then confiscated and destroyed the fish, and asked the seller to erase the posted video and sign a contract to stop the importation of the fish”.

Kuong added that a video posted recently on social media, which alarmed the public, was not recent but had been around for a long time, and was edited and reposted. He also confirmed that piranhas do not exist in the country, and the FiA does not permit their importation.

Piranhas belong to a group of freshwater fish within the genus Serrasalmus. Out of 25 species in this group, only four are harmful to humans and animals.

These fish, which consume raw meat, often reside in large schools and found in the Amazon and other rivers of South America. Known for their large triangular teeth, broad heads and powerful muscles around their cheeks, piranhas can bite any animal that ventures close to their habitat.

The sound of water splashing attracts piranhas, enabling them to use their sharp teeth to bite through the flesh of large animals until they reach the vertebrae in mere seconds. Their ferocity and ability to detect the scent of blood in the water liken them to sharks.

With a flat body and broad abdomen, each piranha species has unique spots and possesses 24 to 31 sharp teeth. These teeth are considered their main weapon, reinforcing the concern over their illegal import into Cambodia and the vigilance of authorities in addressing this public safety issue.