‘They’re aggressive predators’

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If you sea something, say something.
Fishermen are being instructed to kill an invasive, predatory fish with the potential to devastate local ecosystems.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is warning folks to be on the lookout for the northern snakehead, a marine animal indigenous to Asia that has been spotted in US waters.
As its name suggests, the snakehead, which grows up to 3 feet in length, can slither onto land and survive for days by breathing in air. It also features a python-like color pattern, differentiating it from the similar-looking native bowfin.
“They’re aggressive predators, preying on native species, and competing for resources,” the MDC warns.
Since 2019, reports of the snakehead have increased, and a Missouri fisherman caught one most recently on May 25 in Wappapello Lake Spillway in Wayne County.
Snakeheads have reached American shores most likely due to releases from aquariums and fish markets, according to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
Fishermen are being warned to kill a dangerous fish reaching America. MDC via Katerina Thornton
“Anglers and boaters also contribute to their spread by illegally using them as bait or unknowingly transporting juveniles in the water-containing compartments of boats.”
They have the potential to “eliminate” native fish species, per NYSDEC.
“The angler recognized they had something different and researched the fish’s characteristics, and realized it was indeed a snakehead,” MDC Fisheries Biologist Dave Knuth said.
“The angler left it on the pavement for several hours thinking it would die, and it never did.”
Fishermen are advised by the MDC to “kill the fish by severing the head, gutting it or placing it in a sealed plastic bag.”
“Do not release the fish or throw it on the bank, as it could migrate back to the water or to a new waterbody.”
The snakehead resembles a bowfin but has distinctive characteristics. MDC Photo
Locally, two snakeheads were previously found in a pair of connected ponds in Queens, according to the NYSDEC.
Since then, “steps have been taken to keep the population contained.”

webintern@dakdan.com

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