- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

RICHMOND — Virginia fisheries officials have created a snakehead fish panel after the state confirmed yesterday the fourth finding of the predatory fish in a tributary of the Potomac River.

An angler’s catch of the snakehead Saturday in the area of Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge prompted creation of the Snakehead Fish Incident Management Team to assess the possibility that the snakeheads are spawning, said Julia Dixon, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

VDGIF fisheries director Gary Martel has contacted both Maryland and D.C. fisheries agencies requesting a meeting to coordinate efforts, Miss Dixon said.

The four fish have been caught since May 7 — three of them in Virginia and one in Prince George’s County.

State officials will work with the Smithsonian Institution to see if genetic testing can tell if the fish found in Mason Neck is related to the one found in Maryland recently.

The snakehead, also known as the Frankenfish, is considered dangerous to the ecosystem because it devours other fish and frogs and has no known predators.

Native to Asia and Africa, it is considered an anomaly because it can move short distances on land using its fins and live out of water for up to three days.

The northern snakehead first appeared in the region last month when a snakehead was caught in a lake in Wheaton Regional Park.

Yesterday, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan signed a temporary ban on the possession, sale and release of live northern snakehead fish in the county.

The regulation is effective for 90 days. The County Council must vote to make the ban permanent. Mr. Duncan said the ban fills in gaps in state law and regulations.

The regulation gives anyone with a northern snakehead a 90-day amnesty period to turn in the fish without penalty to the Montgomery County Humane Society.

Violators will be charged with a Class A violation that could mean a $500 fine.

The law doesn’t apply to the possession or sale of dead snakeheads meant to be eaten at licensed restaurants.

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