Air-breathing Fish May Be Invading NYC Waterways

By Amelia Pang, Epoch Times
May 1, 2013 Updated: May 1, 2013

NEW YORK—Environmental officials in NYC are asking the public to kill any Northern snakehead fish they come across because they are a potential threat to New York’s ecosystem and economy, as well as to the nationwide fishing industry. 

There have been reports of snakehead being spotted in the manmade Central Park’s Harlem Meer. Signs have been posted around the lake instructing anyone who sees the fish to call 311.

The aggressive, air-breathing fish originates from China, Russia, and Korea. Snakeheads feed primarily on other fish and have the potential to “disrupt recreational and commercial fishing, harm native fish and wildlife, and impact our economy,” according to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) website.

The Northern snakeheads are tan colored, with many sharp teeth, and a large mouth reaching far behind the eyes. 

If found, the DEC is asking the public to kill the fish, freeze it, take a photo if possible, and contact the DEC office. 

Northern snakeheads are top predators capable of growing to at least three feet long and surviving throughout the continental U.S. in a variety of habitats. 

While oxygen cannot support native fish of the United States, snakeheads can breathe air and survive for days out of water in damp conditions. 

Snakeheads spawn multiple times each year. Females can release tens of thousands of eggs at a time. Young fish can move across the ground to access water.

Two populations of this air-breathing predator have been identified in New York State. Populations of the fish have been found in ponds in Queens, and another in Ridgebury Lake in Wawayanda, Orange County. 

The Queens population is currently confined. However, the Ridgebury population, situated in the Wallkill River drainage, has the potential to infest the entire Hudson River drainage and beyond to the Great Lakes. DEC plans to eradicate the Ridgebury population using rotenone.