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County offers cash prizes in fishing tournament targeting invasive fish wreaking havoc: 'They are voracious'

"They're providing incentives to commercially harvest and process these fish … to make an industry out of it."

"They're providing incentives to commercially harvest and process these fish ... to make an industry out of it."

Photo Credit: iStock

In an effort to join the fight against invasive species, a county in Maryland is introducing an event that will give locals the opportunity to chow down and take home some cash.

As explained by the local ABC affiliate, the Worcester County Chamber of Commerce in Ocean Pines will host an invasive species fishing tournament Saturday, June 22. Chamber of Commerce President Kerrie Bunting told ABC that the goal is to reduce the presence of snakehead fish, also known as Chesapeake canna, as well as blue catfish, because of the impact they've had on the local environment.

"Both species are very, very detrimental to our ecosystem and the indigenous fish species because they are voracious," Bunting told ABC. "They just eat everything."

Officially dubbed the Pounding on the Pocomoke Fishing Tournament, anglers will have the opportunity to earn cash prizes of up to $500. Winners will be determined by the heaviest individual fish as well as the heaviest total haul.

In addition to the insatiable appetites of these species, Bunting added that they reproduce at incredibly high rates, which further pushes out the fish that are native to the area. The state is so motivated to remove these invaders that it's actually illegal to throw the fish back into the sea once caught.

The tournament will help educate anglers and raise awareness about the problems these species pose. Bunting added that there is a hope that this will be a first step toward a larger economic opportunity.

"They're providing incentives to commercially harvest and process these fish like you would crabs or oysters, to make an industry out of it so that we can get more and more out of the waterways," Bunting told ABC.

This is yet another addition to the ongoing battle against invasive species. Similarly, the state of Tennessee recently began offering $100 to any angler who caught the invasive silver carp, which have been outcompeting native fish for food and resources. 

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The state of Virginia recently launched the Blue Catfish Processing, Flash Freezing, and Infrastructure Grant Program, which provides grants to seafood distributors to expand their infrastructure for processing and flash-freezing the blue catfish invaders. This initiative aims to create a market for the fish and make a dent in their population.

By turning the management of invasive species into a community effort with tangible rewards, these states are not only addressing environmental concerns but also engaging the public in conservation efforts in a fun and rewarding way.

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