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Japanese SnakeHead Fish...

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Japanese Snakehead Fish...

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A scientific panel on Friday recommended that Maryland game officials use poison to kill land-crawling snakehead fish found in a local pond and prevent the voracious predator from slithering into the state's waterways. The snakehead, which grows up to 3 feet and can crawl across land to find new prey, was discovered this summer by a fisherman in a pond in Crofton, Maryland, raising fears that it could devastate local fish populations.

After about 100 baby snakeheads were later found in the pond, state officials created a scientific panel to figure out the best way to destroy the fish.

Its recommendation: The pesticide rotenone.

The poison would be mixed into the pond and kill the snakeheads quickly, said John Surrick, spokesman for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.

"The experiments that we did in the lab earlier this week indicated that the fish would die within an hour," he said.

The department will decide by the end of next week whether to proceed with the poisoning proposal, Surrick said.

Draining the pond would have run the risk that baby snakeheads could have escaped in the water pumped into a nearby river, officials said. Other options such as large scale netting or electro-shocking the water were also discarded.


Rotenone is used by gardeners to kill aphids and other insects. The pesticide has also long been used by managers of U.S. fisheries to get rid of exotic fish or control fish diseases because it does not harm birds or mammals.

In Crofton, the pesticide's impact would be limited to the pond because it dissipates in a few days.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration published on Friday its proposal to ban imports and trade across state lines of 28 species of snakehead.

Snakeheads have been found in at least six other states: Hawaii, Florida, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to the Interior Department.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton this week described the fish "as something from a bad horror movie."

The freshwater snakehead has a huge appetite, often consuming all other fish in a lake and even eating its young. When it exhausts its food supply, the fish can slither across land, staying out of water for up to three days, to find new sources of food.

They have even attacked people in China who got too close to snakeheads' egg nesting areas, Norton said. The fish is also native to Africa.

Two snakeheads -- dubbed "Frankenfish" by some -- were dumped in the Maryland pond by a local resident who bought them from a live fish market to make soup for a sick relative.

The fish has primarily been imported to the United States by seafood sellers and aquarium shops.

Snakeheads are sold in fish markets and some restaurants in Boston and New York, where they are legal. The fish have also been sold through aquarium fish retailers over the Internet.

Such sales would be banned under the Interior Department's proposal, which is open for public comment through Aug. 26


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