Are Chinese “walking catfish” positioned to invade D.C.?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2002:
WASHINGTON D.C., BALTIMORE–The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service on July 26, 2002 proposed a permanent rule against the
importation and interstate transport of and species of snakeheads,
also known as “walking catfish.”
A scientific panel on the same day advised Maryland
Department of Natural Resources secretary J. Charles Fox to authorize
exterminating a small local snakehead population immediately, even
at cost of killing their whole habitat.
The recommended strategy would begin with using the herbicide
glyphosate, better known under the brand name Roundup, to kill all
vegetation in the pond where the snakeheads were discovered. The
water would then be poisoned with rotenone.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources staff pulled about
100 juvenile snakeheads of a variety native to the Yangtse River in
China out of the pond within a week of the first confirmed report of
their presence, about a year after a local fish hobbyist released
several snakeheads there who had outgrown his tank.
The pond is not quite the length of a football field from the
Little Patuxent River. The scientific panel suggested that since the
fish can slither for short distances over land, they might invade
the river if flooding ever closes the gap.
Washington Post staff writer Anita Huslin reported, however,
that “E-mails from scientists in Hawaii, where snakeheads were
introduced more the 200 years ago, indicate that the fish there are
not particularly fleet of fin,” and are therefore relatively
unlikely to wander successfully.
Even if they did, snakehead experts around the world suggest
that an established snakehead population would probably just become
another of many popular introduced “pan fish” species.
Poisoning the pond, on the other hand, could do permanent
ecological damage, and might not even succeed in killing all the
The California Department of Fish and Game has been spending
$500,000 a year since 1994 on thus far unsuccessful efforts to
extirpate introduced northern pike from Lake Davis. A 1997 attempt
to kill the pike with rotenone cost $2 million, plus $9.2 million in
mitigation costs after the scheme contaminated local drinking water
Currently the California DFG is trying to kill the pike by
setting off underwater explosions, and is reportedly sensitive about
editorial cartoons depicting them as the hapless Hanna-Barbera
television cartoon character Wiley Coyote attacking the Roadrunner