//Invasion of the Snakeheads: A New Threat to Georgia’s Ecosystem

Invasion of the Snakeheads: A New Threat to Georgia’s Ecosystem

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By Jonathan Frazier

With a snake-like head, a 33-inch body, and the ability to breathe on land, the Northern Snakehead Fish seems an almost alien threat to the Georgia ecosystem.

Originating from China, Russia and Korea, the Northern Snakehead (Channa argus) is an invasive species to the Americas. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, they were possibly introduced through unauthorized intentional release from aquariums or live food markets.

The northern snakehead has become widely popular in ethnic markets and restaurants over the last two decades, such that this species comprised the greatest volume and weight of all live snakehead species imported into the U.S. until 2001.

Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) – A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assesment

Though reports of foreign Snakeheads in the United States date back over a decade, confirmed reports of their arrival in Georgia are new— and the threat posed by their presence are worth considering! Since this is a new species to the Georgia ecosystem, the exact outcome of its arrival is unknown, but the facts reveal that they could rival the current predatory balance of power:

These predatory fishes may compete with native species for food and habitat… Adult snakeheads feed almost exclusively on other fishes… Adult snakeheads show significant diet overlap with largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), with both consuming a large proportion of [topminnows] in the lower Potomac River (Saylor et al. 2012).

U.S. Geological Survey

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources believes the movement of a non-native fish into a new body of water could have irreversible damage to the regional ecosystem.

To prevent the potential unbalancing affect of their presence in the Georgia lakes, rivers, and streams, the GNDR suggests this five step process to all who come across Northern Snakehead Fish:

  • DO NOT RELEASE IT.
  • Kill it immediately (remember, it can survive on land) and freeze it.
  • If possible, take pictures of the fish, including close ups of its mouth, fins and tail.
  • Note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks or GPS coordinates).
  • Report it to your regional Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Office (https://georgiawildlife.com/about/contact#fish)

What’s the weirdest fish you’ve caught in our local bodies of water? Was it an invasive species? Let’s us know in the comments section below!

PHOTO CREDITS Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources and U.S. Geological Survey