Walking Fish Recently Discovered in Georgia, Invasive Species Found in 14 States

Georgia is the latest state to find the northern snakehead, an invasive species of fish that can survive up to four days on land, in its waters.

According to a statement by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), the fish was caught in a private pond in Gwinnett County.

"We are now taking steps to determine if they have spread from this water body and, hopefully, keep it from spreading to other Georgia waters," said Matt Thomas, Chief of Fisheries for the WRD.

The northern snakehead has been reported in 14 states, but this was the first time the species had been reported in Georgia. As an invasive species, the fish will compete with and prey on other species native to the area. The United States Department of Agriculture says the fish is federally regulated, classified as injurious wildlife.

northern snakehead, invasive species, environment
The northern snakehead, dubbed "Frankenfish", is an invasive species from Asia that threatens North American ecosystems. The SDA/Getty

That classification means it is illegal to import the fish into the U.S. without a permit. One must have a valid wild animal license in Georgia to sell, transfer or possess any species of snakehead fish. It is as yet unknown how the fish wound up in the Georgia pond.

Snakehead fish may still be kept as pets in some areas, according to the United States Geological Survey. However, in many states, it is against the law to own one.

The northern snakehead uses its air bladder as a sort of lung, enabling it to breathe and survive on land for up to four days. If they bury themselves in mud or sediment, they can live even longer. The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force says the snakehead's ability to move from one body of water to another gives them an advantage over other fish.

KDKA reported that a northern snakehead was caught in Pennsylvania's Monongahela River. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission was notified of the catch on September 27. While snakehead fish have been in Pennsylvania waters since approximately 2004, this was the first time one had been captured in the Monongahela.

If caught, the WRD says the northern snakehead should not be released but rather killed immediately and frozen. The location where the snakehead was caught and photographs should be sent to the appropriate regional WRD office.

The northern snakehead is not the only invasive species of fish found in U.S. waters. The USGS says the Asian swamp eel has taken up residence in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Hawaii. While they are edible, living larvae can cause tissue damage and potentially death in humans.

Walking Fish Recently Discovered in Georgia, Invasive Species Found in 14 States | Tech & Science