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Maryland Donates Invasive Fish Meat to a Food Bank

Determining what to do concerning the invasive northern snakeheads in Mid-Atlantic waterways has lengthy perplexed state wildlife officers. Northern snakeheads, that are endemic to jap Asia, reproduce prolifically, after which savagely shield their quickly rising fry. Bass anglers throwing topwater frogs or flipping baits round vegetation typically get an eye-opening expertise when the brown, toothy fish completely crush their floor lures. Nevertheless, the species negatively impression ecosystems as they prey on fish like shad and sunfish, creating ripple results that impression bigger recreation fish. Snakeheads have been in the United States for decades and was once offered in pet shops, reside fish meals markets, and eating places in a number of main cities. The interstate transport and possession of fish with out a particular allow have been banned since 2002.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) officers have been learning and attempting to handle snakehead populations, together with invasive blue and flathead catfish, for years. In spring 2021, the company operated a fish raise on the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River to assist native species throughout their migration whereas additionally trapping and eradicating snakeheads and flatheads. The undertaking was a partnership between the MDNR, the dam proprietor, Exelon Corp, the Maryland Division of Agriculture, and native seafood wholesaler JJ McDonnell and Co. In addition to eradicating the invasive fish from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, officers had been ready so as to add to their organic analysis information whereas additionally offering wholesome meals to an area meals financial institution.

Megan McGinn with the MDNR stated that “roughly 2,000 kilos of northern snakehead had been processed, which yielded 900 kilos of boneless filets. All had been donated to the MD Meals Financial institution for distribution. Every filet was individually vacuum-sealed, labeled, and frozen to make sure high quality.”

This 12 months’s effort was a pilot program that closed with the top of the spring migration. It’s being evaluated for continuation sooner or later: “This initiative serves a number of objectives, together with controlling invasive fish species by harvesting them to attenuate their impacts on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and offering protein-rich meals to these in want,” defined MDNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “We additionally will enhance our assortment of scientific information, which can assist us higher handle these invasives sooner or later.”

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The fish lifts had been put in on the east and west sides of the Conowingo Dam a long time in the past to permit the vital passage of migratory fish resembling American shad and river herring. Exelon works carefully with state and federal companies to assist these species entry conventional spawning areas above the dam. One of many lifts was closed for spring 2021 to curb the motion of invasive species. The opposite has a sequence of gates and channels of water that appeal to and maintain fish in a specialised hopper that was lifted over a sorting tank the place biologists can shortly kind the fish. Shad, herring, and different native and recreation species had been put into holding tanks after which trucked upstream to be launched. Invasive snakeheads and catfish had been eliminated.  

“Regardless of the challenges invasive species have introduced, we stay dedicated to working with MDNR on controlling this risk and working in an environmentally accountable method, together with implementing inventive options to make sure the secure passage of fish in the course of the spawning season,” Conowingo Dam Plant Supervisor Dusty McKeown stated.

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