Casey Pushes for Support to Eradicate Northern Snakehead from PA Waters

Invasive Fish Threatens PA’s $1.6 Billion Fishing Industry

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today urged the Department of the Interior to respond to the spread of the northern snakehead fish in Pennsylvania. The invasive fish, a predator with few natural enemies that could damage Pennsylvania’s fishing industry, was recently found in the John Heinz National Wildlife Memorial at Tinicum, Delaware County.

“Pennsylvania’s fishermen and those that rely on the economic footprint of the fishing industry expect and deserve quick action to contain this invasive fish,” said Senator Casey. “I urge the Department of the Interior to provide immediate assistance to eradicate this threat to Pennsylvania’s waterways and a vital industry.”

The northern snakehead is an invasive fish from Africa and Asia that has sharp teeth, a voracious appetite and can even survive on land for periods of time. The snakehead devours native aquatic animals and could threaten Pennsylvania’s fishing industry, which has an annual economic impact of $1.6 billion, if it spreads to different waterways.

In a letter to the Department of the Interior, Senator Casey urged the agency to immediately support the appropriate state and local entities in efforts to contain and eradicate the northern snakehead from Pennsylvania’s waterways.

Last fall, Senator Casey urged the Department of Homeland Security to step up agriculture inspections to prevent invasive species from entering the country following a report that such inspections have dropped dramatically in the past decade.

In his letter today to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Senator Casey wrote, “The Department of Interior has previously taken action to address the threat of invasive species, yet more must be done.  With the species being spotted in new areas, it is time to strengthen efforts.”

The full text of the letter to Secretary Salazar is below:

The Honorable Ken Salazar

Secretary

Department of the Interior

I am troubled that the northern snakehead fish, an aggressive and dangerous invasive species from Africa and Asia, now inhabits eastern Pennsylvania waterways.  It has been found in the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and other waters in the Commonwealth.  I urge the Department of Interior to respond to this issue expeditiously, and provide immediate assistance to appropriate State and local entities dealing with this problem.

As you know, northern snakehead fish are top level predators with few natural enemies. Swift and effective action is critical to preventing these fish from overtaking Pennsylvania’s waterways. The spread of northern snakehead fish would have an adverse effect on native species and, in turn, Pennsylvania’s fishing industry. With an economic impact of over $1.6 billion, Pennsylvania’s fishing industry is vital to the state’s economy, and swift action is vital to preserve this industry.

The northern snakehead fish is likely in the early stages of colonization in the Commonwealth. If the Department acts now, eradication of this threat is possible.  I ask that the Department immediately respond to this serious situation.

The Department of Interior has previously taken action to address the threat of invasive species, yet more must be done.  With the species being spotted in new areas, it is time to strengthen efforts.  Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and I look forward to working with you on this issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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