Thursday, June 30, 2011

Virginia's Invasive Nightmare

Article By Michael Salotti in the Virginia State Parks Blog

Snakehead at Mason NeckIt is the thing of nightmares for local fish populations.  These creatures are native to Asia and Africa, but they have managed to find their way into the United States.  They have the ability to disrupt native fish species and are currently doing so in various states across the U.S.
If you haven’t heard of them yet, the fish I am referring to is the snakehead fish.  Most snakehead fish can grow to an average of two to three feet, and their mouths are lined with sharp teeth.  They are elongated predatory fish that have a long dorsal fin that begins at their pectoral fins and runs until the tail.  Snakehead fish also have the ability to breathe air with a suprabranchial organ.  As adults, they feed on other fish, amphibians and, in some cases, small mammals. 
The reason these fish can cause ecological damage stems from the fact that they are considered top predators outside of their natural habitat.  This means they have no predators to keep their populations in check.  They also have the ability to migrate across land from one water source to another.  Snakeheads have been known to survive for up to four days outside of water, provided they stay wet.  Another thing to add to the concern is that a single female snakehead can release as many as 150,000 eggs a year.
These fish are now being caught in Virginia waters.  If you catch one of these fish, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ask that you do not release it.  Instead, call them at 1-800-770-4951 for proper identification in compliance with state laws and regulations.  They have an established population in the Potomac River, and a snakehead fish was just caught at Mason Neck State Park a few days ago.  More information on the snakehead fish can be found here
Article shared from Virginia here
Visit the Virginia State Parks website here for more about their 35 parks and offerings.
BRFAL Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist wants you to get outside, explore and learn something new today. Get involved in something cool! Learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist program here 

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