Snakehead fish caught after draining of Burnaby, B.C., pond

A northern snakehead found in a small lake north of Memphis, Tenn. Photo provided by the University of MemphisAfter a month-long hunt and a number of failed attempts, British Columbia's snakehead fish has finally been caught. Biologists ran a net through a partially drained pond to get the elusive creature on Friday morning. The fish was two-thirds of a metre in length, reports say.

 It was euthanized.

This horror movie-worthy saga started when a stroller videotaped the snakehead lolling in a pond in Central Park in Burnaby, next-door to Vancouver, on May 13.

The video set off alarm bells among marine biologists. Snakeheads, which originate in Asia and Africa, are an invasive, fast-breeding predatory fish whose arrival places native species and the ecosystem at risk.

It can grow to a metre in length and its mouth is equipped with rows of sharp teeth. The snakehead also has a primitive set of lungs that allows it to move on land. It's been known to jump out of the water to take small animals.

Snakehead fish caughtA snakehead fish living in a Burnaby, B.C. lagoon was caught and removed due to worries it could seriously disrupt the area's natural ecosystem

Another park visitor also shot video of the snakehead that same week, the Burnaby Now newspaper reported.

"It's a really cool-looking fish, but that fish definitely shouldn't be in there. It's so aggressive, especially if it's not the only one in there," said Burnaby resident Bruce Causier.

"If they start breeding, they are going to wipe out all of the fish in that pond," he said. "It would be nice if someone did catch it."

After sweeping the ponds for the snakehead, which some have dubbed "frankenfish," provincial officials started pumping water out of the lagoon where the fish was hiding. When the draining is finished, all invasive species will be removed from the pond. It will then be replenished with water and native species.

Ministry officials had good news last month, reporting there was no evidence of any young snakeheads in the initial sweep.

"No juveniles were found," Matthias Herborg, invasive-species co-ordinator, told the Vancouver Province during an earlier search.

At the time, officials snared other non-native species, including carp, a red-eared slider turtle, bullheads, goldfish and bullfrog tadpole larvae.

"The fact they are non-native highlights the issue," said Herborg. "People are well-intentioned when they release things which have outgrown their aquariums, but unfortunately it is not good for the environment. Please don't release pets in the waterways."

The snakehead was likely a pet (or planned dinner) released into the pond.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake said the Controlled Alien Species Regulation will be adjusted to make sure live snakeheads cannot be brought into the province, the Vancouver Sun reported. Lake expects the changes to become law by fall 2012.

With files from Steve Mertl