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Meat-Eating Fish Breeding in Md.

July 12, 2002

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) _ Two large, meat-eating fish native to China found their way into a Maryland pond after a pet owner dumped them, and now authorities are concerned the fish could be a threat to native species.

The two northern snakeheads were released into a Crofton pond two years ago, police said Thursday. But the fish may now have hundreds of offspring.

The situation is of special concern to authorities because the Little Patuxent River is about 75 yards away from the pond, and northern snakeheads can live three days out of water and walk short distances on their extended fins in search of food.

``They can gain a foothold here and begin to proliferate in ways that would displace native organisms,″ said Eric Schwaab, director of the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service.

The northern snakehead can grow to be 3 feet long and has a voracious appetite.

State officials discovered the presence of the species in May, when an angler caught a suspicious fish and provided a photo for identification. Since then, biologists have caught several babies.

State officials are setting up a scientific panel to investigate the problem and come up with recommendations to remove the snakeheads from the pond.

No charges were filed against the owner of the two original fish, whom police would not name, because the statute of limitations has expired.

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