Science

Northern Snakehead Invasive Fish: 'Fishzilla' Creeps Into Central Park Lake

By Hilda Scott , May 02, 2013 04:37 PM EDT
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Two populations of the northern snakehead fish, referred to as "fishzilla," have been identified in New York State. The invasive fish, native to China, Russia and Korea has made its way to New York's City's Central Park lake, the Harlem Meer.

The northern snakehead fish can grow to three feet long, feed on other fish and also frogs and crayfish. These invasive fish can also live days out of water with its ability to breathe air. 

These predatory "fishzilla" fish feed on other fish and are a major menace to the native ecosystem. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the fish were most likely purposely released into lakes and ponds. The northern snakehead fish is popular on the Asian food market and the release was to encourage its population growth so it could be fished for as a food source.

Since the northern snakehead fish is considered highly disruptive to the local ecosystem, environmental officials are not pleased about its presence and plan to survey Central Park this week to search for the fish. Along the Harlem Meer, which is located in the northeastern corner of Central Park, signs warn people who catch the fish to not throw them back.  

"Secure the fish. Keep it in a secure container until it is picked up by officials," read the signs directed towards catch and release fishers who visit the Harlem Meer. People are also encouraged to call 311 if they are unable to locate any park official at the boathouse.

Although the term "fishzilla" is used to describe these monster-like fish, they are not dangerous to humans, so people shouldn't be afraid. The signs along the Harlem Meer are "just to let people know that this fish is in there," Department of Environmental Conservation fisheries manager, Melissa Cohen said.

"If you find it please do not return it to the water and it also helps people become aware that there are things in the water that should not be there," Cohen said.

These invasive northern snakehead fish are so highly disruptive to the ecosystem that the sale and transport of the live fish and its eggs are illegal in the United States. 

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