As National Invasive Species Awareness Week draws to a close, we're dedicating today's "Thoughtful Thursday" post to an invasive fish found in our local waters - the northern snakehead.
This species is native to China and parts of Korea. It first appeared in the U.S. as an invasive species in Crofton, Maryland in 2002, and now can be found throughout the east coast, from New York to Florida.
Experts believe that snakeheads (also referred to as "frankenfish") were introduced into our waterways by home aquarium owners and through the live fish food trade.
How snakeheads are negatively impacting our native ecosystems:
- These fish compete with native species for food. As snakehead populations continue to grow in U.S. waters, their predatory nature will continue to "knock out" a wide array of native species.
- They are passing diseases onto other fish.
- Snakeheads are air-breathers capable of on-land migration. This means that their reach to new waterways is virtually limitless! Researchers are now reporting that the species is slowly making their way out west, wreaking havoc on ecosystems as they go.
What's being done (and what YOU can do) to help manage the population:
- Learn more!
National Aquarium and like-minded organizations are working to raise awareness of this species. Our DC venue actually has a snakehead on exhibit to make visitors aware of its invasive status!
- Fish responsibly!
Both local and federal government agencies, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are working together to manage current populations and prevent future introductions of the fish into native environments. If captured, it is now illegal to release snakehead back into native waters.
- Eat it to beat it!
Local restaurants are beginning to use snakehead as a sustainable seafood option! They were also the featured ingredient for one of the Aquarium's Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dinners!
Have you ever experimented with cooking an invasive species? Tell us about it in the comments!