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Experts on the hunt for furtive Frankenfish 0

By Erica Bulman, 24 Hours Vancouver

Government scientists searched Burnaby Central Park's pond for hours, hunting for a snakehead fish caught on camera by several locals. Experts consider the jagged-tooth predator a highly invasive fish that's a threat to native species.(CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

Government scientists searched Burnaby Central Park's pond for hours, hunting for a snakehead fish caught on camera by several locals. Experts consider the jagged-tooth predator a highly invasive fish that's a threat to native species.(CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

The predator became the prey.

A team of government experts descended on Burnaby's Central Park on Wednesday in an attempt to hunt down a stealthy snakehead purportedly prowling one of the ponds.

Scientists drained the pond about 20 cm, used dragnets and electro-fishing techniques - delivering a light charge in the water to temporarily stun the fish so they float to the surface.

They caught several non-native species, including goldfish, giant carp, exotic turtles and even a golf ball. They also removed several bullhead catfish, also particularly invasive.

But by the end of the day, there was no sign of Frankenfish.

"We tried to assess what was going on with the snakehead situation here. It's hard to tell," said Matthias Herborg, an aquatic invasive species expert with the B.C. Ministry of Environment.

But its scarcity indicates there's not a large population of this species in the pond.

Finding a snakehead wouldn't give biologists a complete picture anyway. There could be a single fish, or more that are breeding.

"We probably have to come back and do some more sampling," Herborg said.

Frankenfish's notoriety drew a large, inquisitive crowd of up to 30 media and residents who came to watch the scientists at work.

The City of Burnaby alerted the ministry after video footage posted online last week showed what appeared to be a northern snakehead in one of the park's ponds. Since then, other locals have sighted the creepy fish, usually lurking in the same section of the lagoon.

"I saw it about three times," said Mitchell Wentzell. "It hangs around by the big koi at this one corner, about five to 10 feet from baby koi. I'm thinking because it's a easy good source."

Also known as "Fishzilla," the furtive fish can grow up to a metre long, and even crawl over land to other bodies of water, devouring small animals on the way.

The northern snakehead is already established permanently in the Potomac River along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Though they haven't become established in Canada yet, experts say the species is robust enough to survive in B.C. waters.

Herborg put snakeheads in the top-10 list of most worrisome invasive species for B.C.

Snakeheads are legal to buy in the province. Experts suspect the fish was a pet that grew too big and was released at the pond.

Video of the hunt:


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