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Piscine killer menaces UK rivers

Angler lands 2ft snakehead amid invasion fears

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A UK angler has provoked a piscine killer invasion alert by landing a 2ft snakehead in a Lincolnshire river - the first recorded example in British waterways of the highly-invasive southeast Asian species which will reportedly eat anything which crosses its path.

Andy Alder, of Lincoln, hooked the beast while using a sprat as bait for pike on the River Witham near North Hykeham, the Sun reports. He told the paper: “It had a gob full of razor-sharp teeth. To be honest it looked terrifying.”

Experts subsequently confirmed the identity of the subaquatic assassin, which features on a list of species banned from the UK. The specimen was likely illegally imported for an aquarium, and subseqently let loose.

To underline just how serious the threat is, the Sun notes the news has provoked "widespread panic among anglers and conservationists". A shaken Environment Agency source said: “The reaction was, ‘Oh s***’. This is the ultimate invasive species - if it starts breeding here it’s a disaster.”

The US knows only too well just how invasive the snakehead is. It was first reported on Florida back in 2000, and in 2002 six adults and about 1,000 babies were found in a pond in Crofton, Maryland. The authorities subseqently poisoned the pond to contain the threat, but in 2004 more snakeheads turned up in the Potomac River, although they were later found to be unrelated to the Crofton specimens.

Anglers have since been regularly pulling snakeheads from the Potomac, with their varying degrees of maturity indicating they're breeding happily in their adoptive home. ®

Bootnote

The Crofton and Potomac fish were the northern snakehead (Channa argus). The exact identity of the UK invader is not noted, but the Sun has splendidly dubbed it "Sid Fishious" and has a chilling snap here.

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