|John Odenkirk with a fresh Snakehead|
...Now, fast-forward a decade. Carrie Kennedy, a fisheries scientist for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, is getting married. Like most weddings, hers will have a buffet of chicken and fish.But, as I suspected (despite my title), snakeheads are not proving to be the ecological nightmare that many envisioned:
"But the fish we're going to have is going to be snakehead," she says. Kennedy notes the fish is an invasive species. "We want it to go away, so we're trying to create a market," she says.
Their strategy may be working. Business in Maryland is almost booming.
"We got a couple hundred pounds yesterday, and all this fish will be gone this weekend," says John Rorapaugh of Profish, a wholesaler in Northeast Washington, D.C. He's standing over crates of iced, giant snakeheads. The ravenous appetites of the fish are legendary. Rorapaugh and others have found batteries, mice, birds' feet and baby turtles in the bellies of the fish. "Anything that swims past them that's living, they'll eat," he says.
And the fish are delicious. "When you bite into it, it almost feels like it falls apart because it's so tender," Rorapaugh says.
John Odenkirk is a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He's standing on a boat on the Occoquan River, surveying the snakehead population by using an electric current in the water.Environmental hysteria is easy. Proving harmful effects is much more difficult.
Odenkirk says it looks like the snakeheads aren't turning out to be the ecological disaster people feared. "We still don't know. We don't have enough information to make that call yet and probably won't for several more years," he says, "but it does look like some of the initial hysteria was probably overstated — not probably, it was almost surely overstated."