NANFA-L--Snakehead News Story

Subject: NANFA-L--Snakehead News Story
From: Hoover, Jan J ERDC-EL-MS (Jan.J.Hoover at
Date: Tue Oct 05 2004 - 14:25:19 CDT

>From the Washington Post:

 Baby Snakehead Is No Bundle of Joy : Scientists Say Fish Is Breeding in
the Potomac and Can't Be Wiped Out

By David A. Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow

Washington Post Staff Writers

Tuesday, October 5, 2004; Page B01

The latest northern snakehead fish found in the Potomac River may be the

most significant yet: It's a baby, three inches long and proof that the

Asian predator is breeding in native waters, scientists say.

With the discovery last week in Alexandria, biologists now confront a

scenario that was considered a kind of ecological nightmare. The snakehead,

they said, will be nearly impossible to eradicate and could drive out other

Potomac wildlife, even threatening the river's plentiful bass population.

An Alexandria resident discovered this three-inch baby snakehead in a

clump of hydrilla in Dogue Creek. Officials confirmed the finding, proof

that the Asian predator is breeding in local waters. (Va. Department of

Game and Inland Fisheries)

"The snakeheads are in charge," said Walter R. Courtenay Jr., an expert

with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The northern snakehead, a native of China and Korea, is a voracious

predator that can grow several feet long. It first gained notoriety in this

area in 2002, when a pair were discovered in a Crofton pond,

along with thousands of young. The pond was poisoned to kill the fish.

The species reappeared in force this summer, as anglers caught 19 adult

snakeheads in the Potomac and its tributaries. Scientists aren't sure where

the first Potomac snakeheads came from but say it's likely

that they were imported for food or as aquarium fish and then dumped.

As the summer went on, each new catch made it more likely that the fish was

here to stay, scientists said. But they held out hope because, despite

weeks of intense searching with electro-shocking equipment,

no juvenile snakeheads had been found.

That changed Wednesday, when Alexandria resident Jack Ferris noticed a fish

flopping around in a clump of hydrilla -- an underwater grass -- at his

subdivision's boat ramp on Dogue Creek.

Someone else at the ramp said it was a minnow, but Ferris, 58, thought he

recognized the small gray-green fish as something else.

"That is a spittin' image" of an adult snakehead, Ferris remembered

thinking. "But it's just a mini."

Ferris took the fish, which he nicknamed Skippy, home in a Gatorade bottle

and called Virginia authorities.

On Friday, it was confirmed: Skippy was a snakehead probably born this

summer in Dogue Creek, a Potomac tributary that has yielded a concentration

of the fish, according to the Virginia Department of

Game and Inland Fisheries.

Knowing that snakeheads lay a massive amount of eggs, scientists reasoned

that there are likely hundreds or thousands more juvenile fish in the


"Eradication, then, is not going to happen," said Julia Dixon, a

spokeswoman for the Virginia agency. "We're going to have to manage them."

In the short term, both Maryland and Virginia authorities said the new

discovery would not alter their efforts against the snakehead.

One of their strategies: After the underwater grasses recede in cold

weather, Maryland authorities plan to sweep through the shallows with huge

nets, trying to catch more of the youngest generation.

The snakehead is not the first nonnative species to invade the Potomac;

before it came the blue catfish; the carp; even hydrilla grass, another

Asia native.

But officials in both states conceded that this new predator might have

serious effects that might not be fully realized for a decade or more.

"There's only so much room out there for so many fish," said Steve Early, a

biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "You're

probably going to displace something."

Many worry that the snakehead's victims might include the largemouth bass.

The Potomac is known nationally as a bass fishery, with about 60 fishing

tournaments a year in Charles County alone.

Fishermen buy gas and food and stay in hotels in communities along the

river, said Joanne Roland, Charles County's director of tourism. Each of

the larger televised tournaments, with about 400 anglers,

contributes about $250,000 to the local economy, she said.

"This is one of the top five bass fisheries in the country. It is not just

another fishing hole," said Steve Chaconas, 48, of Stratford Landing, who

guides bass fishing trips on the Potomac. "When you have an

invasive species, it really throws the whole food chain out of balance."

The problem, he said, would not stem from adult snakeheads squaring off

against adult bass but from snakeheads preying on the zooplankton and

smaller fish, such as shad and perch, that young bass need

for sustenance.

"If you're a fisherman, I think eventually you will notice the difference,"

Chaconas said. "This will disturb the food chain. This will cause


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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 11:27:38 CST