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Invasive Species Project, Research Paper Example

Pages: 1

Words: 965

Research Paper

Introduction

The Snakehead fish are members of the Channidae freshwater fish species. They are a long fish with a large mouth and sharp teeth. They resemble the Pike but they have the ability to breathe air through a gill system that also allows them to traverse across land to find different water systems.  They were brought into North America as an invasive species from Asia, possibly illegally by Asian Restaurants where the fish is regarded as a delicacy.  The fish is extremely robust and can survive in almost any water temperature.  Once introduced to the water it becomes the top predator and will feed off all other fish and marine species including frogs and marine birds.  A single pair can produce up to 150,000 off spring in a single year and as such become a disastrous consequence to any fresh water system.

Problems Posed

These fish cause considerable ecological damage to the water systems they inhabit, quickly taking over as the prime species.  They are fiercely protective of their young and can prove to be vicious if encountered.  These fish can weigh over 17 pounds and grow almost 3 feet in length. Although an aggressive species they have been known to keep other species like Frogs, Rats and other water mammals in check. Nevertheless they are an invasive species and are banned or restricted on most water systems in North America.  The issue of them travelling over land, similar to eels means they pose a threat to other nearby water systems.  Rivers are particularly vulnerable as they cover wide areas and may have streams that feed into other water systems. The fish reach sexual maturity at only two years of age when they can start breeding in vast numbers.   They can breed twice a year and produce over 150,000 eggs.  This means that they can over populate a water system in a relatively short period of time

Combating the Problem

It is now illegal for Aquarium stores to stock and sell snake head fish in most North American jurisdictions. There needs to be a stronger public awareness campaign on the dangers these fish represent to our water system.  Asian Restaurants have been caught smuggling these fish into North America and unwanted stock have been dumped in both lakes and rivers where they have multiplied in numbers. One specific example being the Potomoc river system in Washington DC where they have grown in significant numbers and become large predatory fish. The fact that they can migrate over ¼ mile on wetland means that these fish have the capacity to spread over different water systems. Crofton Maryland had an aquaculture facility that was breeding these fish until this was closed down (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Invasive Species

Of particular concern in the United States is how this fish has spread as an invasive species across the length of the country. There have been recent reports of their sighting in BC Canada.  This widespread distribution of the fish is alarming given its potential in Canada to in vade pristine Trout and Salmon waters.  Most States in America now have these banned from being retained as pets in Aquariums.  The fish is a prized food in Asian culture and if these are caught anglers are encouraged to kill them and eat them.  The fish has been given a lot of media attention and compared them to the vicious piranha fish. Although an aggressive species they are unlikely to purposely go after humans but they are more of a menace to fisheries as they will quickly deplete the place of other fishery stocks. (Fumano)

Despite the fish being banned in many areas across the United States, the impact of legislation has been minimal in terms of the introduction of the invasive species to the water systems across the USA.  There have been other issues with people keeping exotic animals and pets from overseas countries and subsequently releasing them into the wild once they are no longer required.   This has equally happened with plant life where items like ‘broom’ spread widely once distributed.  A lot of this is to do with education and people not being fully aware of the consequences of their actions.  The Asian restaurant owners may see this as something natural from their homeland but they do not realise the consequences that introducing alien species may have to the natural environment. (National Agricultural Library)

Fisheries in the USA are encouraging anglers to kill these fish if they are caught in the waterways and not put them back.  They are particularly good eating so this is one means of trying to pry them out of the system.  Nevertheless, because of their capability to reproduce in high numbers it is extremely difficult to get rid of these fish once they have inhabited a specific waterway system.  In BC they have drained lakes in order to remove these fish and then refilled and restocked them.  Regrettably this cannot be done with rivers and as such provides the fish with a wide geographical dispersal system.

Conclusion

Great care needs to be taken to avoid introducing non-native species to the natural environment as this can both upset the natural balance and cause damage to the environment.  This applies to animal and plant life.  Very often the spread of such invasive species can take years to correct and restore the balance.  The more adaptable and prolific species like the snakehead fish propose an even bigger problem owing to the capacity to breed in large number, the ability to survive in a range of different water temperatures and its hardiness in a range of different environments.

Works Cited

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Not welcome in Canada: Preventing a Northern Snakehead invasion. 2012. http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/publications/article/2009/01-06-09-eng.htm. 19 11 2012.

Fumano, Dan. Invasive snakehead fish found in BC park lagoon. 16 5 2012. http://video.about.com/fishing/Snakehead-Fish.htm. 19 11 2012.

National Agricultural Library. Northern Snakehead. 2012. http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/snakehead.shtml. 19 11 2012.

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