The U.S. Department of Commerce denied a request by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore for the declaration of a federal fisheries disaster due to the harm caused by invasive catfish and snakeheads, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced in a press release yesterday. The disaster declaration, which Gov. Moore requested in March, would have led to federal funding to address the threat of these invasive species to Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay fisheries, environment, and economy.
Invasive blue catfish are voracious predators that feed on native species, including menhaden, striped bass, eel, shad, river herring, and blue crabs. In some Chesapeake Bay tributaries, they make up approximately 75 percent of the total weight of all fish inhabiting the river.
Maryland DNR has taken additional steps in recent months to control invasive fish species, including hiring a dedicated program manager, increasing blue catfish research and monitoring, and encouraging commercial and recreational anglers to catch and eat blue catfish.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Maryland Executive Director Allison Colden issued the following statement:
“Blue catfish are threatening the Chesapeake Bay’s ecological balance. While the denial of the fisheries disaster declaration is a setback, many other efforts are underway to increase the harvest of blue catfish and mitigate their harm. We applaud the Moore administration for its leadership on invasive species.
“On the federal level, it is absolutely crucial that Congress act to remove burdensome catfish processing requirements that have held back growing the commercial harvest of blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay.”