For a few years, the Asian carp has been one of the most infamous fish in America.
However, the Asian carp may have to cede its title of most infamous fish to another Asian invader: the northern snakehead, which is considered by some to be a vastly more terrifying fish — quite literally. And it could soon be coming to the Great Lakes, according to Canadian biologists.
It has been the inspiration of several sci-fi horror movies, including 2006′s “Swarm of the Snakehead” and 2004′s “Snakehead Terror” and “Frankenfish.”
One of the reasons for this is that these fish can breathe air and move on land. In addition, it’s able to live out of the water for several days if it remains moist.
It also has the ability to move on land by wiggling and flopping short distances to other water locales. The snakehead also possesses pointy teeth.
All these characteristics that make it a prime candidate to star in a horror film.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the northern snakehead is banned in all 50 states.
They have been banned in the U.S. because of their potential impact on native fish populations. They have the potential to wreck native fish populations through both competition and direct predation.
The northern snakehead made Time magazine’s Top Ten Invasive Species list in 2010, joining notable invaders such as zebra mussels and killer bees.
Northern snakeheads can be identified by their long dorsal and anal fins, as well as their large mouth that reaches beyond the eye. They can reach about 2.8 feet in length.
A recent report by Canadian biologists concluded that the fish could live throughout the Great Lakes, which is problematic considering that they are known as voracious predators.
It’s believed that the northern snakehead could enter the Great Lakes through the same pathway as Asian carp — from the Mississippi River system.
Northern snakeheads were originally found in North America in a pond in Crofton, Md.
It is believed that these fish came from some of the tens of thousands of northern snakeheads that were imported and sold in the U.S. between 1997 and 2002, at which point they were federally banned.
Nevertheless, an illegal trade has remained alive in the U.S., and breeding northern snakeheads have been found in the Potomac River, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and in Arkansas, where it’s believed the dreaded Asian carp escaped from fish farms and into the Mississippi river system.
With the discovery of the “Frankenfish” in Arkansas, “Operation Mongoose,” an attempt to exterminate the fish with rotenone, took place in 2009. Despite the massive poisoning, 50 fish have still been found in the treated waters, which all link to the Mississippi River, a pathway to the Great Lakes.
Consequently, the northern snakehead is considered a threat to the Great Lakes Basin — perhaps an even greater one than Asian carp.