NPR : News

Snuffing Out Snakehead By Putting It On The Plate

If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.

That's the rallying cry for conservationists who are recruiting cooks — and their filet knives and frying pans — to the fight against invasive fish species.

The latest target is the snakehead fish, an aggressive animal native to Asia and Africa that has been populating the waterways of Maryland and Florida with frightening speed over the past decade. A predator capable of eating fish as large as perch and bass, the snakehead dominates rivers and lakes once it enters them.

But this week, the snakehead went from aquatic pest to delicacy at a fundraiser for an Annapolis-based environmental organization, the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Nine prominent chefs — including National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver — grilled, seared, and broiled the pale filets, and then served them to a curious audience.

The dressed-up dinner plate strategy has been tried before to eradicate invasive species, or at least contain them. And it's had varying degrees of success.

With some problematic fish, like the Asian carp that has taken over the Mississippi River, it's been difficult to get people to adjust their palates for the environment's sake. And coral reef defenders are still hoping an appetite for lionfish will take hold.

But that may not be a problem with the snakehead. Snakehead is a traditional food in Vietnam and Thailand, among other places. And John Rorapaugh, the vice president for sustainable initiatives at ProFish, a seafood supplier based in Washington, D.C., describes the fish as "very clean tasting, mild, and just a great, great delicacy."

In the past, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, or MDNR, has tried to drain and poison ponds to stop the snakehead from spreading.

But Rorapaugh hopes that convincing commercial fishermen to pursue and market the fish at fish markets will be more effective. The biggest challenge is catching it since it typically doesn't congregate in large schools.

Promoting this particular fish as a food source is an ironic choice of eradication strategies because, "unfortunately, that's probably how they got here to begin with," Donald Cosden of MDNR tells The Salt. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurs, listing the probable cause of the snakehead's establishment in the U.S. as "individuals releasing these fish to establish a local food source."

While Rorapaugh hopes to see snakehead filets for sale in local grocery stores, he says there are no plans to set up a real fishery. "I would be very happy to sell, sell, sell, sell, and then have no more to sell," he says. In the meantime, he says, recreational anglers can help out by seeking out the fish in rivers like the Potomac, where the snakehead has set up shop.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

After Sketchy Science, Shark Week Promises To Turn Over A New Fin

Shark Week is here, and scientists are afraid. Not of the toothy swimmers — but of inaccuracies, bad science and the demonization of animals that aren't as ferocious as Discovery Channel has made out.
NPR

Do Try This At Home: 3 Korean Banchan (Side Dishes) In One Pot

If you've ever eaten at a Korean restaurant, you're used to the endless side dishes that come out with the meal. They're called banchan, and they're remarkably simple to make for yourself.
WAMU 88.5

Cutting Local Taxes in The District

The D.C. Council has taken steps to accelerate tax cuts for all income earners. They're part of a broader overhaul of the city's tax levels, but some council members argued there wasn't enough time for a rigorous debate about the new schedule. We explore the debate over cutting taxes for D.C. residents and how it affects the city's ability to pay for critical local services.

NPR

Reddit CEO Says Miscommunication Led To Blackout Protest

A user revolt briefly shut down the social site last week after a key employee was dismissed. Interim CEO Ellen Pao says the company has "apologized for not communicating better" with site moderators.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.