Florida in invasive fish fight

May 1, 2012 at 5:16 PM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May 1 (UPI) -- Fishermen in Florida say a way to combat snakehead fish taking over some of the state's freshwater byways is to put the toothy invasive fish on the menu.

The Asian invader, dubbed "Frankenfish" for it ugly visage and its alleged ability to breathe air and crawl on land, now occupies a 200-square-mile area of northwest Broward and southern Palm Beach counties.

But in their native Southeast Asia, where they are common in Pakistan, Malaysia and southern China, they are a popular food dish, as Americans who've tried them will attest.

"They are absolutely phenomenal to eat, through the roof," fisherman Jason Calvert told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

His 7-year-old daughter Hailie agrees. "I love the white meat," she said.

But aside from their taste, there's not much to recommend the species, Jason Calvert said.

"They are taking over our water, and they're eating anything from bass to turtles," he said. "They're moving and they're spreading. It's a virus, that's all it is. They're already in Palm Beach County."

No one knows how the interloper arrived in South Florida.

"We don't really know how they got here," said Kelly Gestring, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's non-native fish laboratory in Boca Raton.

"Obviously someone illegally released them."

Gestring dismisses land-roving snakeheads as myth. "There's been a lot of media hype about snakeheads," he said. "Snakeheads can't walk on land and they can't survive out of water for days."

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