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Snakeheads In The Potomac River Update
Genetic research supports the hypothesis that a very small number or perhaps a single breeding pair of northern snakehead fish introduced into a new water can establish a wild population. The results of the genetics testing of northern snakehead fish by the Smithsonian Institution were made available to state and federal agencies.
Genetic data support the hypothesis that a single breeding pair of northern snakehead established the Crofton Pond population of northern snakehead fish discovered in Maryland in 2002. The Potomac River specimens caught in 2004 did not originate from the Crofton Pond population. The genetic analysis indicates that all of the fish tested to date from the Potomac, with the exception of the largest specimen, which was a male, potentially came from the same adult female or from breeding siblings. There is no close genetic relationship between the Potomac River fish to those collected from waters in Wheaton, Maryland; Massachusetts; or Pennsylvania.
Due to the potential for significant impact on the aquatic systems, any movement or possession of live northern snakehead fish is a major concern and a violation of state law. Additionally, movement of live northern snakehead fish between states is a violation of federal law and regulated through the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Anyone possessing one should not release it but should report it to their state natural resources agency.
State and federal agencies will once again be sampling to collect northern snakeheads in the Potomac River during the spring and summer seasons. The best source of information remains the thousands of anglers that are on the public water. If anglers catch a northern snakehead, do not release it back to the wild. Rather they are requested to dispatch it immediately and contact the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at either 1-800/770-4951 or 804/367-1000 (in Virginia), or the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at 410/260-8320 (in Maryland). For additional information on line, visit the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries web site at www.dgif.virginia.gov or Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/.
April 26, 2005
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