Who Will Save the Snakehead?


The Wash Times carries this serio-comic story about Westerners filing a petition to place the northern snakehead fish–an "invasive species" that has created a panic in Maryland and nearby environs–on the endangered species list.

A band of 13 commissioners from Western counties who have filed to seek protection for a rare new species: the northern snakehead fish, also known as the "Frankenfish."

[Petitioner Alan Gardner] understands that the carnivorous, Asian-bred fish not only can swim but also crawl across land and wreck havoc on local wildlife. And no, he lives nowhere near the Potomac River, where the snakehead makes its home—and that's the point.

"As I read about this fish in the Potomac, I thought, 'You know, that sounds like an interesting proposition,'" says Mr. Gardner, a commissioner in southwestern Utah's Washington County.

"I discussed it with some other commissioners, and we thought that this could really let people in the East know how the Endangered Species Act works and how it can affect the lives of everyday people," he says.

Sure, saving the Frankenfish is preposterous. But not much more so than some previous attempts to list species found in the West, says Roger Mancebo, a Pershing County, Nev., commissioner.

Mr. Mancebo cites the recent effort to win protection for the sage grouse, a bird so common that it's hunted in 15 states.

Whole thing here.

Reason Managing Editor Jesse Walker wrote memorably about the snakehead–and just how tasty a treat it is–a while back here. And Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey has discussed the whole invasive species bogeyman here and here.

NEXT: Fact Finding on the Golf Course

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  1. Oh, man, this is beautiful. I can just see the “Save the Snakehead” tee-shirts.

    We have mountain lions in Iowa now. Not sure we ever did before, but we do now. I always thought mountain lions required, well, you know… mountains, but there you are, mountain lions in Iowa. Hopefully keep the deer population down and steal a few undocumented babies now and then, what other good they will do is beyond me, but there are some folks wanting to protect the “Iowa Mountain Lion.”

  2. clarityiniowa, Felis concolor used to range all over the continental united states, but was pushed back into the Florida swamps and the Rocky Mountains by 1920 (when they acquired the moniker Mountain Lion, probably!). So, yeah. Unless these are dysfunctional Puma they’ll stick to keeping the deer population down and getting shot for eating some rich lady’s yappy-dog.

    And they’ll need protection, because given animal control practices in his country of ours, we’ll start shooting them if that yappy-dog loses a fight with the tabby cat down the block.

  3. Kill em all. Let God sort em out. he he he

  4. Until further notice, please stop sending Me large groups of victims to “sort out”. I’ll have you know that we JUST closed out the Crusades, and now we’re finally tackling WWII. I don’t know when we’ll ever get to the Cold War. I simply don’t have the staff.

    Thank you in advance.

  5. God: You’re killing me!

  6. ..eventually..

  7. On to the bigger question: Is it right (moral, justified, etc.) for these guys to do something that they know is wrong to make the point to the folks bck East that they shouldn’t be sticking thier “Save the (insert here)” noses into other parts of the country?

    I say the ends justify the means, because some people only learn by getting the stick (instead of the carrot).

  8. Oh, I find rich ladies’ yappy dogs annoying too!

  9. Ian – Thanks for the provenance on pumas. Anyways, they’re apparently back with a vengeance, and I’m sure they’ll be protected, until and unless some illegal alien’s kid gets sucked up by one – U.S. citizens getting killed and eaten doesn’t seem to raise much of a ruckus with the left wing crowd hereabouts.

  10. …as demonstrated by all the stories about predators eating immigrants that have appeared in Reason, or anywhere else, over the past few years.

  11. So when this case gets slapped away in ten minutes because it is completely without merit, the litigants will do the reasonable thing, and conclude that the cases they disapprove of had significant differences in the facts involved.

    They won’t just conclude that eastern librul judges have everybody and are picking one them. Of course not.

  12. “They won’t just conclude that eastern librul judges have everybody and are picking one them. Of course not.”

    Of course, because phonetically spelling “Liberal” the way an “ignorant” person speaks proves beyond a doubt that the judges are always objective. Gee, I can’t imagine why people might feel that easterners are picking on them. Where ever did they get that crazy idea?

  13. The threat due to large predators is overblown. More people will be killed this year because of insect stings/bites than will be killed by wolves, bears, lions, etc. Tens of thousands will be killed this year by microscopic predators… you know, bacteria and viruses. Our resources are limited. We can get a bigger bang for the buck by going after the microscopic killers than the macroscopic ones.

  14. More people will be killed driving into deer than by predators. Why are there so many deer? Not enough predators.

    So clearly, the rational thing to do is to loosen the restrictions on killing predators. I mean, think of the children.

  15. joe – …as demonstrated by all the stories about predators eating immigrants that have appeared in Reason, or anywhere else, over the past few years.

    A, I was joking about the eating of illegal immigrant/vs. U.S. citzen’s babies, and
    B. I was referring, by the term “hearabouts,” to my home state, not Reason and/or Hit and Run.

  16. This is an interesting case, because conservationists and environmentalists (I make a distinction between the two purposely.) often rail against “invasive species”, i.e. snakeheads, eurasian milfoil, zebra mussels, etc., but are prone to support the “return” of predators such as the mountain lion/prairie panther/puma whatcamacallums, wolves and the like, to an area where they haven’t been seen in a century or more.

    Every species comes from somewhere. Not all squat on the same plot of ground indefinitely. Strikes me as a case of something that could be done something about, or not.

  17. “I was referring, by the term “hearabouts,” to my home state, not Reason and/or Hit and Run.”

    Oh oh oh oh oh. Gotcha. My bad.

    A CENTURY of more? The issue is the presence of absence of species that conflicts with how the ecosystem developed over evolutionary time, and you’re writing about “a century or more?”

  18. Don’t give me any of that Intelligent Design/6000 years crap, either, clarity!

  19. Why isn’t anyone working to save the endangered Chupacabra?

  20. clarity,

    invasive species, while they may not be the doom-bearing heralds of the apocalypse many environmental groups make them out to be, are still bad – pike introduced by a few fishermen in Montana are eating up the trout populations; trout-fishing tourism is one of Montana’s major sources of income. A weed species of plant in the southwest may invade and choke out native plants during wet years, die off horribly when the climate swings back to dry, and leave the entire landscape looking like the moon because the things that were adapted to that dry climate were all killed off.

    Also, missing keystone predators like Pumas are also bad. Drive out the animals that eat deer, and strangely, deer explode in population – and then proceed to denude the countryside of vegetation, get hit by cars, and spread the dread Lyme Disease (duh duh dunh!). And then to control them we have to let more hunters out there, increasing the chances some numbnuts with a six-pack and a rifle will shoot himself or some dumb kid. By reintroducing predators into their old habitats, we get pest species like deer under control, and the numbnuts will have to go deeper into the woods with his six-pack, reducing the chance that he’ll shoot anyone other than himself. And the real hunters will get to enjoy a challenge again, since they’ll have to hunt for a deer.

  21. joe – Define the ecosystem. How wide a range is the average “ecosystem” anyway? How is it defined for a certain geographic area?

    Within a day’s ride from where I am typing, I can find virgin prairie, dense forest, no fewer than four major watersheds, one of the only two known chains of bluffs made by ancient loess deposits (windblown dust and sand).

    How do you define these ecosystems, what belongs where, and over what period of time?

    Supposedly there were dinosaurs here once. If they should return, are they “indigenous species” or “invasive species?”

  22. Ian – Same challenge. What exactly BELONGS in my particular neck of the woods – er, make that prairie – and what doesn’t? Who decides, and to whose ultimate benefit?

  23. Actually, there have been a number of cougar/mountain lion/puma attacks child/woman stories recently. Particularly in California where they are protected. Seems like one nailed a jogger last month or so, and another ran into an off-duty LEO who happened to be packing an equalizer.

    I understand there are several parks there which are rated unsafe for children for that reason.

  24. Good for the puma/cougar/mountain lion thingy, say I! One got nailed half a mile from my folks’ house by an SUV. Maybe SUVs should be relocated to another ecosystem where they have more natural predators to keep their population under control.

  25. Other names for the puma/cougar/mountain lion:

    Panther, painter, mountain screamer, night screamer, mountain cat, mountain devil, mountain demon, catamount, Indian devil, devil cat, ghost cat, American lion, Mexican lion, silver lion, brown tiger, red tiger, deer tiger, purple feather, purple lion, king cat, sneak cat, red jaguar, gray lion, varmint, and right about here it starts to get ridiculous.

    It’s classified as the largest member of the “small” cats, genus Felis, but recent studies suggest an affinity with cheetahs (genus Acinonyx), with the extinct Miracinonyx of North America as a possible common ancestor. Alan Turn in Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives suggests the two are also the closest living relatives of another hard-to-classify member of the cat family, the snow leopard (genus Uncia). All three have a small, domed head and a relatively light, long-limbed build (the latter exaggerated in the case of the cheetah, not so true in the case of the puma, and mostly disguised by thick fur in the case of the snow leopard).

    (I’m a geek.)

  26. Alan TurnER in Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives — cool book. Nifty illustrations by Mauricio Anton.

  27. Stevo Darkly, I must say that you almost always have the most interesting posts. Thank you, and please continue.

  28. Well, thank you!

  29. clarity,

    If you are genuinely interested in understanding the issues you ask about, you shouldn’t bother with a novice like me. Richard T. T. Forman has a great book, “Land Mosaics: the Ecology of Landscapes and Regions” that gets at the questions you raise, including the inevitability and necessity of incorporating human values into the understanding of management of the environment.

  30. joe – Of course I’m interested, and I’ll probably give that tome a sniff, although I’m also interested in what my fellow H&Rers base their opinions upon.

    Who’s to say the snakehead ought to be left alone in a certain lake, but eliminated somewhere else, the prairie panther belongs in Iowa, but not in Illinois, etc.?

    Human values indeed. The logical extension of designating one critter “invasive” and another critter “indigenous” is to try to stuff all of humanity back into Olduvai Gorge.

    A few years back we in Iowa were treated to an invasion of the Asian Ladybeetle – A sort of super-ladybug that lands on everything light colored, pinches like hell when they get mad and stink like graveyard dirt when you smash ’em. We hate them, but apparently the mourning doves are just gobbling them up. Most of us here love mourning doves – they are pretty, they coo pleasantly, and for some they would be fun to shoot and eat. Apparently we have more mourning doves because we have the pesky Asian Ladybeetles.

    There are always tradeoffs, even, or especially, in “nature.”

  31. So is it “Stevo Dorkly” you’re going by now?

  32. Occasionally, smackster. 🙂

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