Neuse River Paying The Price For Introducing Flathead Catfish
Posted January 11, 2002 10:35 a.m. EST
KINSTON, N.C. — In 1966, 11 fish were introduced into the Cape Fear River. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it was the worst introduction in North America.
One of the fish introduced was the flathead catfish, a very popular sport fish whose meat is very tasty and firm to eat.
The fish's downside is its eating habits. Unlike native catfish that act like vacuum cleaners cleaning the bottom of debris, the flathead catfish eats other fish. With a fish that big, it means a lot of native river life is being gobbled up.
"A river system can only support so many fish per mile," said biologist Christian Waters.
"As we get more flathead catfish in our river, we're losing some of our natural heritage -- some of our native fish that we fished for centuries in North Carolina," said N.C. State zoologist Tom Kwak.
Students from N.C. State are radio-tagging the fish from the Neuse River. They are hoping to learn the dietary habits and movements of the fish to help find a way to control their population.
Wildlife experts point out it is illegal and ecologically irresponsible to move the flathead catfish from one river to another.