News / Asia

Three Questions: Fear and Loathing of the Snakehead

Three Questions: Fear and Loathing of the Snakehead
Three Questions: Fear and Loathing of the Snakehead
Dave DeForest

The snakehead, a variety of fish native to Asia and Africa that has recently gained a foothold in some American waterways, has not done the damage that biologists once feared.

No one knows for sure how snakeheads were first introduced into the United States, but they gained considerable attention in 2002 when they were discovered in a Maryland pond. Once they took hold, the fish spread rapidly and has been found in an increasing number of U.S. waterways.

Early on, scientists worried that in a new location, without its natural enemies, snakeheads would spread out of control and crowd out native fish. The fish with a narrow, snake-like head has primitive lungs so that it can breathe out of the water and a voracious appetite.  They have protruding lower jaws that usually contain dog-like teeth.  They can become fairly large; the largest snakehead on record was four feet in length.

Not long after being spotted in the United States, rumors spread that the fish had the unique ability to travel far distances over land and that they were capable of attacking pets and small children.  People began calling them “frankenfish,” connecting them in the mind of the public with novelist Mary Shelley’s infamous monster, “Frankenstein.”

The rumors turned out to be false, but the scary reputation stuck. Hollywood actually released two movies based on the fish, one called Snakehead Terror [2004].

Amy Benson, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, Florida, is an expert on snakeheads.

Has the snakehead done any damage to U.S. waterways?

No one really knew what was possible and impacts are really, really hard to determine. So, I think what we can say is, we have not found a lot of impact to date.

Where are these fish found in the U.S.?

There are several established populations and the largest one is in the Potomac River.  Right now the population is a little north of Washington in the Potomac River, but it is being stopped by a “dam” there, a falls. The other populations I’d like to mention are in Arkansas in a small creek there. It is a tributary eventually that would go into the Mississippi, but so far, none have been collected from the Mississippi drainage. Other populations include the Philadelphia area, and I believe they are getting out into the Delaware River.  There is also a wild population growing in upstate New York.

Now that snakeheads have arrived and apparently have done no harm, should we just relax and adjust to their presence?

I think we are going to have to. I don’t think we can eradicate them. They are way too widespread now, widespread in the Potomac River, to do anything about them. I wouldn’t say that we are not worried, but the best we can do right now is just to try to educate the public as to not to inadvertently spread these species, because we can’t do much about them currently. We just want to stop the further spread of them.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid