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Research Document - 2005/075

Risk Assessment for Northern Snakehead (Channa argus) in Canada

By Cudmore, B., and N.E. Mandrak


There are at least 29 species in the snakehead (Channidae) family and are found in cold temperate to tropical areas. The cold temperate snakehead, northern snakehead (Channa argus), is found in areas in Russia, China, and Korea. Northern snakehead is highly favoured as a food fish and is commercially fished and exported. Historically, it has been found in the live food trade in the United States, and is currently only imported into North America into British Columbia. This species has a broad range of environmental tolerances and is extremely hardy. Its voracious predation on other fish species, ability to migrate over land and ability to withstand freezing and no water is well known. Concern for this species to enter Canadian natural waters prompted the provincial government of Ontario to ban live possession of this species. The Canadian federal government conducted a biological risk assessment to determine the risk of northern snakehead in Canada. This assessment included evaluating the risk of survival, reproduction and spread of these species, as well as their pathogens, parasites or fellow travelers (e.g. other invasive species) should northern snakehead be introduced into Canada. These components were assessed using best available information on its biology, potential vectors of introduction, and impacts in both native and introduced ranges. The potential distribution in North America was also modeled as part of the risk assessment. The biological risk assessment concluded that the risk of impact was high in, at least, some parts of Canada, including the southern Great Lakes basin by northern snakehead.

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