What do Snakehead fish and Giant Hogweed have in Common?

ISCBC News Release, May 18, 2012: WILLIAMS LAKE—The aggressive snakehead fish has been reported in Burnaby’s Central Park lagoon. The impressive and highly toxic Giant hogweed is found in many public areas in the Lower Mainland. What two things do these have in common? Both are invasive and not native to BC, and are intentionally transported and introduced by people.  
As with over 60 per cent of invasive species, people spread invasive species to new areas, and work is underway to encourage people to undertake responsible behaviour by “taking action” to prevent new introductions.  People are the solution to reducing the spread of new invasive species, including both the snakehead fish and Giant hogweed, to new parts of BC.  
The reported sighting of snakehead fish, currently being confirmed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, is a threat to local wetlands. Snakehead fish are predators with no local natural enemies and, with the help of sharp teeth, eat other small fish, frogs, and even small mammals such as rats. They mate up to five times a year, and females can release over 10,000 eggs at once. If there is more than one snakehead fish in the Burnaby lagoon, this could pose a serious threat to the local wildlife and ecosystem.
Giant hogweed, a high profile invasive plant, was first introduced to the Lower Mainland as an ‘exotic’ garden plant. Growing up to five metres, and with a photosensitive ‘sap,’ it has the potential to cause second degree burns and scarring after exposure to skin along with sunlight. Its toxicity resulted in WorkSafe BC guidelines; yet, many people display this plant in their gardens.
Whether there is one snakehead fish, or hectares of Giant hogweed, both demonstrate the need to work together to stop their spread to new areas. Governments, businesses, and residents need to undertake strong immediate action to ensure that species such as these are immediately contained and removed. 
Tom Wells, chair of the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC), emphasizes that ‘prevention is key and is the most important and cost-effective management strategy against invasive species like the snakehead fish.” 
“We need to close entry points that bring in new invasive species to avoid long-term economic costs. Governments are responsible for providing the needed tools and regulations, and residents need to undertake responsible actions.”
He adds that people can “take action” by planting and trading only non-invasive plants, and avoiding disposal of any non-native fish to local ponds. He encourages the public to connect with their regional invasive species organization, who can provide information on what species to be on the watch for in the local area. 
Information on Regional Committees can be found through the ISCBC website,, under Partners.  
A special thanks to Rod Gonzalas for taking the time to question ‘out-of-place’ critters in his area, take video for proper identification of the snakehead fish, and report this significant sighting. The ISCBC encourages the public to report invasive species by calling toll free 1-888-WEEDSBC.
Learn more about invasive species by joining the ISC “Spotter’s Network,” reading the Activities T.I.P.S. best practices for aquariums and water recreation, and discovering what invasive species are of concern in BC. Find all of this and more on the ISC website: 

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The Invasive Species Council of British Columbia is a registered charity working collaboratively to build cooperation and coordination of invasive species management in BC. Workshops, activities, and events educate the public and professionals about invasive species and their potential risks.
The ISCBC has grown rapidly since its inception in 2004, and is recognized across the country for its leadership in building collaboration on the challenging and growing problem of invasive species. 
For more information, contact the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC): • (250) 305-1003 or 1-888-WEEDSBC •

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