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US Proposes Ban on Snakehead Fish

2002-8-8

This is the VOA SpecialEnglish ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

American Interior Secretary Gale Norton has proposed a ban onimporting and selling twenty-eight kinds of fish known as thesnakehead. Experts say the fish is a threat to the environmentbecause it eats other fish, plants and animals.

The snakehead fish is native tothe Yangtze River in China. It has appeared in at least sevenAmerican states. It can grow to be almost one meter long. Thesnakehead can breathe air and can stay out of the water for as manyas three days. The fish can leave the water and move across land tofind food in other bodies of water.

The snakehead has a wide mouth, sharp teeth and powerful jaws.Some people say it looks like a snake's head. The fish can swallowother large fish. It also eats small animals, including frogs, birdsand mammals. Biologists say the snakehead has no known enemies.

Snakeheads are usually sold in fish markets or in pet stores inthe United States. They are known for their excellent taste.

In May, a northern snakehead was discovered in a small lake inCrofton, Maryland. A local man has since admitted that he put twosnakeheads into the pond two years ago. He said he had bought thefish from a market in New York City. At first, he was going to cookthe fish and eat them, but he later decided not to do this.

Biologists recently caught aboutone-hundred baby snakeheads in the pond in Crofton. They fear thathundreds more may be in the water. If the fish escape from the pond,they could move to the Little Patuxent River, about seventy metersaway. Scientists fear the fish could kill the wildlife in the river.

A group of scientists decided that the fish had to be killedbefore this could happen. After several tests, they decided thatpoisoning the pond with chemicals was the best way to kill thesnakeheads.

The northern snakehead is only one of many kinds of snakeheads.But it is of most concern because it is the only kind that cansurvive through winters. Other species require warmer climates forsurvival.

Snakeheads also have been discovered in Hawaii, Florida,California, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But Maryland isthe only state where reproduction of the species has been confirmed.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.