FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 27, 2003 Contact: Julia Dixon Smith
Telephone: (804) 367-0991
(RICHMOND, VA) - The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
has charged a Richmond pet shop manager with violating a regulation
prohibiting the possession and sale of exotic, non-native species
permit. If convicted, Christopher Backus, fish department manager of The
Club on Parham Road could face up to $1,000 in fines for possessing and
attempting to sell a snakehead fish.
A VDGIF biologist, on receiving a tip from a member of the public about
illegal fish, turned the information over to the Department's game
for investigation. The fish had evidently been purchased at the same
prior to a regulation revision that added snakehead fish to the list of
predatory and undesirable species became effective on January 1, 2003.
owner turned the fish back in to the pet store claiming it had grown too
for his fish tank. The pet store then put the fish up for sale again.
The fish was initially identified by a VDGIF biologist and confirmed by
Walter R. Courtenay, with the U.S. Geological Survey's Center for
Resource Studies and the country's leading expert on snakeheads. He
that the animal was a cobra snakehead (Channa marulius). Dr. Courtenay
with Maryland and North Carolina last summer in their efforts to
to eradicate snakehead fish in those states. The fish was seized by game
Native to Asia and Africa, snakehead fish have no natural predators in
United States and pose significant threats to native wildlife
this country. The animals are capable of moving short distances on land
can withstand extreme weather conditions. They are sold in the pet trade
worldwide and favored as a food fish in many cultures.
Game wardens also charged Backus with possession and attempting to sell
another illegal exotic animal species, the clawed frog (Xenopus spp.).
Wardens seized 10 albino clawed frogs. Backus is expected to appear in
on March 27. Game wardens are currently investigating several cases of
possession of illegal exotic species.
Virginia State Game Wardens seized an illegal cobra snakehead at a pet
in the Richmond area.
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