‘Kill It Immediately’: Invasive Fish That Can Breathe Air Found in Georgia

October 10, 2019 Updated: October 10, 2019

An invasive fish species was spotted in Georgia, leading wildlife officials to call on people to “kill it immediately and freeze it.”

The northern snakehead fish, native to the Yangtze River basin located in China, was found in Gwinnett County earlier this month, according to state officials. The animals have been reported in 14 U.S. states.

The Department of Natural Resources called on people to “not release it.”

“If possible, take pictures of the fish. Include close-ups of its mouth, fins and tail,” it also said, adding that one should “note where it was caught like the waterbody, landmarks, or GPS coordinates.”

It’s not clear how the fish got in the pond.

Mouth and teeth of a northern snakehead fish. (U.S. Geological Survey)

“Our first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species, such as the northern snakehead, are our anglers,” said Matt Thomas, Chief of Fisheries for the Wildlife Resources Division, in a statement. “Thanks to the quick report by an angler, our staff was able to investigate and confirm the presence of this species in this water body. We are now taking steps to determine if they have spread from this water body and, hopefully, keep it from spreading to other Georgia waters.”

The snakehead is a long, thin fish that looks similar to the native bowfin. They can reach lengths of three feet.

A juvenile northern snakehead fish (Georgia Department of Natural Resources)

“They have a long dorsal fin that runs along their whole back, and have a dark brown blotchy appearance,” officials said.

But more alarmingly, the fish “can breathe air” and also “can survive in low oxygenated systems,” state officials said.

$778 Million Plan to Block Asian Carp Advance

The head of the Army Corps of Engineers has sent Congress a $778 million plan to fortify an Illinois waterway with noisemakers, electric cables, and other devices in the hope that they will prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, where the aggressive invaders could leave other fish with too little to eat.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite on Thursday approved the plan to install defenses at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, about 40 miles from Lake Michigan. The site is a crucial choke point in an aquatic pathway between the lake and the carp-infested Illinois River.

The plan represents a compromise between proposals to erect barriers that would seal off Lake Michigan from the river and less drastic measures such as stepped-up commercial fishing.

Environmentalists and states including Michigan had argued for physical separation, while Illinois and Indiana contended that it would disrupt cargo shipping and that a Chicago-area electric barrier was keeping the carp at bay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.