Wildlife officials issued blunt advice to kill a vicious invasive fish species found in Georgia for the first time.
The said species is a snakehead fish which is capable of breathing air. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife claimed the first sighting in the state happened in a pond in Gwinnett County.
Matt Thomas, chief of fisheries for Wildlife Resources Division, said that the department is currently trying to confirm if the species have appeared on other water areas in Georgia.
The snakehead fish is a non-native invasive species that is believed to have originated in Asia and Africa. They are often found in freshwater.
Although they are usually harmless on humans, snakeheads are detrimental to native species, as they compete for food and habitats since they are voracious predators, and they reproduce fast. The report said that a female snakehead could lay up to 50,000 eggs that can hatch within one to two days, depending on the water temperature. The possibility of out-competing or even displacing native fishes is a major concern, as it can also affect the fishing industry.
Officials advised to kill it through freezing, as they could wiggle back to bodies of water. Then, one must report its area of the sighting, along with the picture of its mouth, fins, and tails.
It is still unknown how the species ended up in Georgia. But this is not the first time it was seen in the United States. Snakeheads were sold both as exotic pets and food in several cities in the U.S., including New York and St, Louis. The industry was banned in 2002 after it was listed as injurious wildlife.
According to a report, snakehead fish made its way to the waters of U.S. through a faith-based activity in which a devotee purchases an animal then releases it back to wild as an act of pleasing a deity. Another theory said that it could be through aquarium hobbyists or some people trying to secure food source.
U.S. Geological Survey defined invasive species as an "introduced, non-native organism" that could be in the form of animal, plant, parasite, or even microorganisms. As they reproduced to their chosen sites, native predators will have more competitors while native prey will have less chance of survival.
The Lacey Act has listed at least 6,500 "injurious" species, including West Nile virus, zebra mussels, Burmese python, and sea lamprey. Yearly, these species brought at least 100 billion dollars damage, usually from crop decimation, disease transmission, and a threat to fisheries.
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