(ANNAPOLIS, MD)  —  On March 16, Maryland Gov. Moore’s Administration issued a formal request to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce asking the agency to declare a federal fisheries disaster as a result of the negative impacts that invasive catfish and snakeheads create in Chesapeake Bay. If granted, the result could be an infusion of federal funding to help address the impact of these invasive species on important Maryland fisheries as well as the ecological and economic harms invasive fish do to native species such as blue crabs, striped bass, and shad. 

Blue and flathead catfish were first introduced in the 1970s and 1980s in Virginia to develop a recreational fishery. Since then, these invasive fish have expanded their range into nearly every Chesapeake Bay tributary. The blue catfish’s ability to tolerate varying salinities, temperatures, and habitat allows them to move easily throughout the Bay. These catfish are voracious predators that feed on native species such as menhaden, striped bass, eel, shad, river herring, and blue crabs. In areas where blue catfish populations are established, catfish make up approximately 75 percent of the total weight of all fish inhabiting the river. 

Since 2004 when snakeheads were discovered in a Maryland pond, the population of these apex predators native to Asia have exploded throughout Bay tributaries after being discovered in the area in 2004. They are considered a threat to freshwater species such as largemouth fish and perch that share similar habitats. 

 David Sikorski, CCA Maryland Executive Director, issued this statement: 

“We fully support Gov. Moore’s decision to pursue federal support to address the serious problems invasive catfish and snakeheads create in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Through our “Great Chesapeake Invasives Count,” CCA is helping to provide fishery managers with more data they need to better understand which invasive species are being caught and where they are, to support the science-based management of our natural resources.  This is one small way that the recreational angling community can support future management actions in the region, and learn more about the growing impact that invasive species have on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.”

To learn more about the opportunities and threats related to invasive fish species don’t miss the April 20th episode of the Chesapeake Perspective, visit ccamd.org/chesapeakeperspective to find out more and register for the event.