Maryland Governor Wes Moore is urging the federal government to declare the increasing population of invasive fish species, including blue catfish, flathead catfish, and snakehead, as an ongoing commercial fishery disaster in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Governor Moore sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo requesting the declaration under provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. The declaration would qualify Maryland for federal fishery disaster assistance.
According to the governor, the state has become increasingly concerned about the explosion in the abundance of invasive fish species in the Chesapeake Bay. He added that “It is critical to act now to mitigate the effects of these invasive species and to provide assistance to the commercial fishing industry.”
Since 2012, the total catch of seven of Maryland’s marquee commercial fishery species that share their habitat with invasive fish at some point in their life cycle has declined between 27% and 91%. The dockside value of these species has likewise declined between 12% and 85%, which is a significant loss for Maryland’s commercial watermen and the state’s economy.
While a direct scientific link between invasive species and the declines is yet to be determined, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has growing concerns about observed high densities of invasive species, particularly blue catfish. It is likely that negative impacts will occur as these species are known to multiply rapidly, adapt to new environments, and eat a wide variety of prey while preying upon and competing with native species for space and food.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has increased monitoring programs of invasive fish and also urged recreational anglers to target them to help combat their population expansion. Reducing numbers of invasive species of fish is positive for ecosystems and, as an added bonus, both blue catfish and snakeheads are valued as a delicacy. There are no fishing limits on invasive fish, which means anglers can catch and keep any number of them, at any size, during any time of year.
time for a bounty on invasive species and maybe an ‘invasive species festival’ to demonstrate recipes along with awards for most fish of each species caught, largest of each species. maybe even track where the fish are caught as part of a bounty program. i’m guessing if we paid a decent amount for each fish caught the population would get under control in a hurry. maybe encourage local restaurants to offer ‘invasive species’ specials to their menus.
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