DEC Plans Action to Protect Catlin Creek and Adjacent Wetlands from Northern Snakehead

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DEC Plans Action to Protect Catlin Creek and Adjacent Wetlands from Northern SnakeheadContinuing an aggressive approach toward invasive species, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will apply an aquatic pesticide to portions of Catlin Creek and adjacent wetlands to eradicate an invasive fish called the Northern Snakehead, Regional Director Willie Janeway announced today. The treatment, slated for October, will reclaim the Orange County waterway so that a healthy and natural fishery can be restored.

The action is a follow-up to successful steps taken to rid nearby Ridgebury Lake and Catlin Creek of more than 200 Northern Snakeheads in summer 2008. Acting on a tip from residents, DEC staff recently found two adult snakeheads at an impassable weir in Catlin Creek. DEC believes this follow-up application is the best course of action to assure this invasive species does not spread to other New York waters such as the Wallkill and Hudson Rivers.

DEC recently sent a letter to area landowners updating them on the issue and their intended action. In addition, DEC has scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m., Sept. 16, at the Wawayanda Town Hall. “We appreciate the patience and cooperation of local residents and town officials as we continue to take steps to stop this aggressive invasive species,” DEC Regional Director Willie Janeway said.

Native to Asia, the Northern Snakehead fish is an air breathing, aggressive freshwater predator. They can survive out of the water temporarily, travel short distances over wet land and have a wide temperature tolerance. For more information please go to Northern Snakehead Fish web page on DEC’s website. They breed prodigiously, have no natural predators in the U.S. and, therefore, have the potential to be extremely destructive.

In 2008, DEC verified the presence of these fish in Ridgebury Lake and Catlin Creek, and launched an eradication effort involving the application of rotenone, an aquatic pesticide. The treatment areas included wetlands, which were the most difficult terrain to apply the rotenone. The capture of the two adult snakeheads shows that some survived the 2008 eradication effort. To aid the upcoming effort, DEC has enlisted the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will provide “Marshmaster” vehicles that will be used to transit the swampy areas and help dispense the rotenone.

DEC anticipates treating the entire area in one day. Because no native species of fish were re-stocked in the upcoming treatment area, few if any are expected to be killed. Animals without gills will not be impacted. Rotenone is an extract from several different tropical plants and breaks down rapidly after application with no lasting toxicity.

DEC is committed to restocking the area with fish after it is treated. The Department also plans to stock Ridgebury Lake this coming fall. Additional fish will also be stocked in Ridgebury Lake through a commitment of $10,000 by the Department. A mixture of species including largemouth bass, black crappie and minnows will be stocked to restore these waters with a healthy assemblage of fish for the future.