Northern Snakehead Eradication Postponed

Brinkley, AR – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has halted their efforts to rid the state of the invasive Northern Snakehead until next spring. Nicole Erwin has more.

There are four necessary conditions that have to be met in order for the commission to begin what they are calling their largest eradication effort ever all of which are teetering. The Game and Fish Commission along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Thursday night, held a public hearing to discuss the eradication proposal and get feedback from the community. Few individuals spoke up, but the primary concern throughout the crowd of 30 individuals or more was to rid the area of the Northern Snakehead. Chief of Fisheries with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Mike Armstrong says the fish is a top level predator that could drastically disturb the balance of aquatic ecosystems in the Mississippi River Basin.

"The Northern Snakehead coming from the southeast Asia thrives in delta environments. It's acclimated and used to those environments where you have wet and dry periods. And we think that's one of the reasons why it's become established in Piney Creek drainage because our latitude is similar to southeast Asia. The climate conditions are very similar to southeast Asia. And of course this being an agricultural rice area where you have flooding and drying. The Snakehead is acclimated to that type of environment," Mike Armstrong said.

The goal of the commission is to eliminate the fish with the pesticide product Rotenone. However, in order for the compound to be most effective, the land must be dry, there should be low flow in Piney Creek and mild or warm weather. Unfortunately mother nature has different plans for the eradication effort.

"We have postponed the project, originally planned for October 1st through the 15th. We're now looking for a date between mid-March and early May. The project will take about 10-15 days to complete," said Mike Armstrong.

The 30-day comment period, which began August 22nd has produced little to no concern regarding the use of Rotenone on nearly 4,000 acres of land. Field Supervisor for Ecological Services, with USFS Mark Sattlelberg.

If we can't eradication next spring, then we're really more concerned as things warm up and they start competing with each other for food, then they may start to spread out of there," Mike Armstrong said.

The final condition necessary for the effort to take place is permission from the 72 land owners whose property will be apart of the Rotenone application process. Local fisheries biologist Jeff Farwick says all of the individuals contacted have agreed, with the exception of only a few who own property but live away from Brinkley. Assistant Chief of Fisheries Mark Oliver says he has hope the fish won't migrate out of Piney because of the cooler weather. While the commission is forced to wait he says they will be constantly refining their strategy.

The commission plans to hold another public hearing before their next proposed application next spring.