Southeastern Fishes Council
Dedicated to the Conservation of Southeastern Fishes

Imported ‘Snakehead' Threatens Local Fisheries
October 6, 2005

Release from:
Grayson County News-Gazette

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) has confiscated a banned snakehead fish from Brian Dunbar's residence in Hopkins County.

"He paid a $25 fine, plus court costs and lost the fish," said Boating and Wildlife Officer Marcus Bowling. "He got it from a pet store in Tennessee.

"We've banned the snakehead in Kentucky since 1978," he said.

The snakehead created a national stir when an angler caught one out of a pond in Maryland in 2002.

Snakeheads are natives of Asia and greatly concern biologists because of their aggressive nature, especially when protecting young.

They possess a voracious appetite and the ability to migrate over land from one body of water to another.

"The snakehead is an exotic species capable of surviving and reproducing in Kentucky," said David Bell, northwestern fishery district biologist for the KDFWR. "They are top predators in their native range and we are worried about them. They are reproducing in Maryland and their biologists are tremendously concerned. They compete with native species and that is a giant negative."

A visitor to Dunbar's home tipped off Boating and Wildlife Officers to the presence of the snakehead. "Someone was in his house and saw the fish," Bowling said. "They knew he wasn't supposed to have it and they called me."

Snakeheads entered the United States from the pet trade and subsequent release from aquariums by owners. Snakeheads also entered the country from the live food fish trade, popular in Asian communities.

They've been confiscated in Alabama, California, Florida, Washington, Texas and now Kentucky. Snakeheads are reproducing in the wild in Florida and Maryland.

"We are extremely concerned about exotic species, such as the snakehead, that may reproduce in Kentucky," Bell said. "We certainly don't want them here."