The Northern snakehead is the “invasive species of the month,” even before one was caught in Lake Michigan last week. Talk about a scary fish: eats anything up to a foot long, looks like a snake, can even “walk” overland between water for three days! Together with the bighead carp (a massive herbivore that has the nasty habit of jumping up onto motorboats), the Asian longhorned beetle, and the various nasty influenza strains arising from southern China, three long-shot scenarios emerge:
– China is waging biological warfare of some sort
– wildlife in China is exceptionally well evolved
– or the zeal for just-killed fish is getting a bit out of hand.
As much as I respect the Asian notion that fresh fish must be killed right before the consumer’s eyes (and yes, the fish is tastier that way), shipping live fish across continents has proven to be an incredibly effective way to diminish the earth’s biodiversity. It’s possible to have fresh fish that’s local, too.
Traps set up in Burnham harbor after the snakehead was identified have caught several large Pacific salmon, among other non-native species. I’ve heard of salmon in Lake Michigan, although the thought initially seemed strange. (Apparently, they’re stocked there to fill the alewife-eating position on the food chain formerly fulfilled by lake trout, which were hurt by sea lamprey. The GLFC reports that Atlantic salmon were once common in Lake Ontario (quite a long ways inland!) and would have made it further up the Lakes if the Niagara Falls weren’t so damned tall.)
To the credit of European and Atlantic species, the most destructive invasive species in the Great Lakes include the common carp, round goby, ruffe, and zebra mussel from the Caspian Sea and the sea lamprey and zebra mussel from the northern Atlantic.
The WSJ ran an article on Wednesday about attempts to tame the carp invasion on the Missouri River. The consensus seems to be that promoting carp predation by humans (i.e., fishing) is the only way to make the river safe for boaters. Problem is, the fish has a bad reputation among consumers and has small bones within the fillets (“deboning directions here”:http://www.mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2004/07/20.htm). Modern technology brings a bright side: the meat is “as useful in surimi as pollack”:http://ss.jircas.affrc.go.jp/english/publication/news/1998/no.16/05fukuda.htm, and some Midwestern processors are already “marketing carp”:http://www.sfishinc.com/bhcarp.html.
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