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Snakehead Fish Discovered in Maryland Pond

Guest Contributors, Guest Contributors
September 23, 2002 | Science News

A pond in Crofton, Maryland, has become the home of a non-native, predatory fish called the northern snakehead. The snakehead has a long dorsal fin, small head, large mouth, and big teeth. It has snake-like scales on its head, with eyes in the same position as a snake's scales. It can grow up to 40 inches long and weigh up to 15 pounds and can survive out of water. The northern snakehead originates in China where it is considered to be a delicacy.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials discovered the presence of the species in May, after an angler caught a suspicious fish and provided a photo for identification. They determined that an unnamed individual put two foot-long fish of unknown sex into the Crofton pond sometime in 2000. Since that time, the presence of additional northern snakeheads in the pond has been confirmed.

DNR Fisheries Service Director Eric C. Schwaab states, "They [snakeheads] are top-level predators so they clearly can eat a lot of the native fish there and displace other native top-level predators, like large-mouth bass and pickerel, both of which are in that pond. One of the problems with non-native species is you never know what the impact is going to be."

"This situation again points out the responsibility we all share to refrain from purposeful release of fish to our waterways and to take great care to prevent even accidental introductions of non-native bait, plants or other species when we go fishing, boating, or otherwise venture into the natural environment," Schwaab continued.

You might discuss the snakehead fish problem when your students are involved in the Environments Module or Diversity of Life Course. What solutions do your students come up with for remedies?

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