Snakeheads Banned in Delaware
July 30, 2004
This action was taken because of well-publicized reports this summer
from the states of Maryland and Virginia about multiple captures of
northern snakehead fishes in the Potomac River system and a report
released on July 23 by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission concerning
the confirmed identification of northern snakeheads in the Meadow
Lake system within FDR
In taking this emergency regulatory action which remains in effect
for 120 days and is renewable for up to another 60 days, DNREC is
putting the public on notice that snakeheads are not to be stocked
anywhere in Delaware, and that anyone presently in possession of live
No one presently in possession of live northern snakeheads
will be fined if they promptly kill them or notify the Division of
Fish and Wildlife, said Roy Miller, Fisheries Administrator.
This unusual action was taken to help prevent the unwanted introduction
of a potentially harmful exotic
Snakeheads are native to Asia and Africa and have been imported into this country both as a food and as an aquarium species. All 28 species of snakeheads were added to the list of injurious species recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October 2002, meaning that according to federal law, no snakeheads may be imported into this country or transported between states.
The northern snakehead is known to be tolerant of temperate climates and could be expected to survive and multiply if it gains access to Delaware waters. By taking this regulatory action, Delaware joins 36 other states that presently ban one or more species of snakehead fishes. The northern snakehead is an aggressive predator that is known to attain maximum lengths of four feet. In addition, it has the ability to breathe air for short periods using its suprabranchial chambers and can wriggle through wet grass to pass from pond to pond.
According to Miller, because of its highly predatory tendencies, snakeheads can threaten the ecological balance of our waterways by out-competing native gamefishes. Northern snakeheads cannot tolerate sea water, so the threat is primarily to freshwater systems in the state.
Snakeheads superficially resemble some native species such as the
American eel. It can be distinguished from the American eel by its
blotchy brown color and distinct tail. It also resembles the bowfin
that lives in inland waters from Virginia southward and can be distinguished
from the bowfin by the fact that snakeheads have a long anal fin that
runs half the length of
of Fish and Wildlife will schedule a public hearing this fall
to consider making the ban on northern snakeheads permanent and will
also consider whether or not to include other species of snakeheads
in the ban to mirror federal legislation. The public will be invited
to comment on
If you are in possession of live northern snakeheads and wish for
the Division of Fish and Wildlife to dispose of them for you, call
the Fisheries Section at 302-739-3441 to make arrangements. Again,
do not release these fish into the wild because even what might
seem like a closed system may not remain so during storm events like
Delaware has been experiencing this summer. For additional information,
contact Roy Miller, Fisheries Administrator, or Craig Shirey, Fisheries
Program Manager with the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the above
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