Exactly. Anglers bring in money to the state. And since fee-paying anglers
outnumber non-fee-paying fishkeepers, threats to gamefish populations will
always be treated more seriously than threats to nongamefish populations.
Perhaps the only way for fishkeepers (or nature lovers) to get more
political clout is to be taxed or charged for the "right" to keep a fish in
an aquarium, or to see a fish in the wild. Maybe fishkeepers should have to
apply for licenses the way dog owners do. Maybe a license to keep a
snakehead would cost more. Perhaps that would dissuade non-serious snakehead
keepers from acquiring the fish in the first place. (I'm not recommending
any of this; I'm just coming up with scenarios that might level the playing
field for fishkeepers.)
Anyway, let's be realistic. We all know that the SC ban on snakeheads is
more a PR effort than an all-out witch hunt on snakehead owners. The SC DNR
-- nor any DNR, for that matter -- does not have the funds and manpower to
knock on every door with a snakehead detector. The best the ban can do is to
minimize the likelihood that snakeheads get into the state's waterways. If
you have a snakehead in your basement, and you are a responsible fish
keeper, then you can keep it. Who's to know? But maybe, just maybe, the ban
will encourage some non-serious snakehead keeper to turn in his or her
channid rather than let it go in pygmy sunfish or greenhead shiner habitat
when it outgrows the 55 gallon.
No one's mentioned that the most conservative of states -- Texas -- already
has a snakehead ban.
Listen, I feel sorry for serious snakehead enthusiasts. But if snakeheads
are as serious a risk as the experts say they are, then the ban is a good
idea. Maybe the SC DNR can institute a bowfin-for-a-snakehead swap program!
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