Wed, Jul 11, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Bitten bathers force resort town to erect piranha net

AP , BRASILIA

A resort town in Brazil hopes a steel-and-plastic net will stop piranhas from taking a bite out of bathers -- and its tourism industry.

Authorities in Palmas in central Brazil say 180 cases of bathers at the resort being bitten by piranhas have been reported so far this year at La Prata beach on an artificial lake that is a major tourist draw.

The figure is three times more than in all of last year.

Town development chief Milton Neres blamed the surge in bites on a booming piranha population as the fish increasingly use the reservoir as a breeding ground.

"They weren't attacks by groups of piranhas but of a single one biting someone's foot. Still, the number of cases is increasing and we live off tourism," Neres said on Monday by telephone.

Neres said the town is installing a US$11,300 net to protect bathers on the artificial lake, which is formed with water from the Tocantins river.

The net, fastened to more than 100 wooden posts forming a half-moon extending nearly 250m off La Prata beach, will be fully installed by this weekend, Neres said.

Authorities will then patrol the waters inside the swimming area. The will then catch and relocate any piranha they find.

He said the town expects 280,000 visitors in the July-August high season, but ruled out eradicating the piranhas.

"It's about combining protection for our swimmers while caring for the species," Neres said.

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