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Great Lakes Article:

Scientists relieved they don't find northern snakehead in Chicago harbor
By Don Babwin
Associated Press
Published October 19th, 2004

CHICAGO - A search Tuesday of a Chicago harbor where a northern snakehead was caught came up empty, to the relief of scientists who were concerned that Lake Michigan had been invaded by a voracious fish that can devastate freshwater ecosystems.

"This is a good sign that we didn't catch any," said Philip Willink, a fish biologist with Chicago's Field Museum who checked six traps and nets in Burnham Harbor. "It means that maybe someone dumped one in the lake."

Pulled from the water were several Chinook salmon and other species, including a zebra mussel and a few round gobies - both of which are invasive species already firmly established in the Great Lakes.

Willink said experts from the Field Museum and the Army Corps of Engineers will continue to scour the lake at least through the end of the week in search of the snakehead. But, he said, the longer they go without finding the fish the more likely that the 18-inch fish caught by an angler recently was simply dumped out of an aquarium by someone who got tired of feeding it and didn't want to kill it.

That a team of scientists mobilized quickly to hunt for the fish illustrates just how devastating a northern snakehead could be if it were to begin breeding in Lake Michigan.

An incredibly hearty fish that can breathe air, the northern snakehead has been dubbed the "Frankenfish" for its ability to survive in oxygen-depleted water and wriggle for short distances over land in search of ponds and lakes.

Willink said that when the fish, which are native of China, Korea and Russia, are small they devour the food that other native fish need to survive. Then as they grow to more than 3 feet long, they eat other fish.

"Whatever fits in their mouth, they'll eat," he said.

The fish first drew attention a couple years ago when two were discovered in a Maryland pond. It has also been spotted in Washington, California, Texas, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, North Carolina, Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. The species has also been found in the Potomac River and its tributaries.

The northern snakehead is banned in various states and cities around the country, including Illinois and Chicago, which banned them two years ago after the snakehead was found in Maryland. And nationally, it is illegal to bring live snakeheads into the country or across state lines.

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