Report affirms using poison soon to kill off snakeheads in pond

Quick action urged to prevent spread of fish

July 27, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Biologists should poison a Crofton pond with the plant-based substance rotenone as soon as possible to eradicate the exotic snakehead fish lurking there, according to a scientific panel's report submitted yesterday to Department of Natural Resources Secretary J. Charles Fox.

Since the scientists met for the first time last week, there has been little debate that the oxygen-blocking fish poison is the best way to rid the pond off Route 3 of its snakeheads. The fish, natives of the Yangtze River in China, can breathe air, survive on land and slither along on their fins.

The panel also agreed the DNR needs to act before the fish reach the Little Patuxent River, 75 yards from the pond. The report said the possibility that the pond may have overflowed at some point after hundreds of juvenile fish already were born "cannot be ruled out." But DNR officials say that comprehensive surveys of the Little Patuxent indicate it's unlikely the snakeheads have reached the river.

"There's no evidence that the fish have gotten out of the pond," said DNR spokesman John Surrick. "But we can't say 100 percent."

The snakehead problem surfaced earlier this summer when local anglers caught two adult fish and notified DNR officials. Officials soon learned a local man had dumped two snakeheads - one male and one female - into the pond two years ago after the fish outgrew his aquarium. DNR officials caught about 100 juvenile snakeheads this month, confirming that the fish had spawned.

To eradicate the fish, the panel recommends first killing all the vegetation in the weed-choked pond with glyphosate, a herbicide widely marketed as the weed killer Roundup, and then applying rotenone about one week later.

The DNR secretary will decide by next week whether to follow the recommendation. Officials have said that if he accepts the recommendation, the rotenone could be applied to the pond next month.

The panel's recommendations can be viewed on DNR's Web site, www.dnr.state.md.us. The public can send comments on the recommendations via e-mail from the Web site, or by calling 410-260-8327.

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