• Outdoors Outdoors

Officials propose law urging people to fish and eat invading species devastating local ecosystems: 'If you can't beat them, eat them'

It's a novel approach that will likely raise awareness.

It's a novel approach that will likely raise awareness.

Photo Credit: iStock

A Maryland politician who introduced a bill to rename the notorious snakehead fish hopes the change will help the area fight off the invasive species.

It will be an uphill climb, however, as others say it's unnecessary — and the fish may not even be that much of a problem, as the Washingtonian reported.

Republican State Sen. Jack Bailey said the switch to Chesapeake channa — the animal's scientific name is Channa argus — will increase the fish's availability at grocery stores and restaurants, enabling Marylanders to control its population. The change took effect when the bill became law in April.

"If you can't beat them, eat them," Bailey said.

But a local seafood distributor told the outlet it had no issue selling snakehead, and a fisheries biologist said, "The wholesale fish market can't keep up with demand." Maybe part of the reason is the taste. Outdoor Life recently said it "might be the most delicious freshwater fish of all time."

An Annapolis restaurant also does well with the strange name but may use channa this season if it goes "mainstream," per the Washingtonian.

The real problem might be that the fish, which can breathe air and "walk" on land, are hard to catch. The Washingtonian reported they don't swim in schools and thus are generally caught one at a time, by often by bow and arrow, though it's easy to find videos showing them being caught with rod and reel.

Snakeheads lurk in shallow, weedy waters, waiting to pounce on other wildlife. They also spawn several times per season. These invasive characteristics make them plenty worrisome, even with a more innocuous name.

"Will it drive a surging commercial [market]? I don't think so," said University of Maryland professor of fisheries science Thomas Miller, who said blue catfish pose a greater risk to local ecosystems. "And [would that] lead to the control and extinction of this species? Probably not."

Still, it's a novel approach that will likely raise awareness, as other similar efforts have. In Italy, fishers and chefs alike are focusing on the blue crab, while green crab is on the menu in Maine. Lionfish have become so plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean that they're being turned into chowder and even handbags.

By coming together with various solutions, we can all help in the push toward a sustainable future.

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