Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A Singapore fishmonger displays a snakehead fish being prepared for sale at a market in the city state July 26, 2002.

Jonathan Drake/ Reuters

It's a toothy, nasty-looking creature, with a torpedo-shaped body, small head and a big mouth – and now it may be swimming in British Columbia.

An amateur video posted online this week shows what appears to be a snakehead, an invasive fish native to Asia and Africa, in Burnaby's Central Park lagoon. Provincial officials are now looking to capture the fish, a voracious predator that can grow to more than a metre in length and reproduce rapidly.

"The first priority is to confirm what exactly is in that lake, because it looks like a snakehead," said Matthias Herborg, aquatic invasive species co-ordinator for the provincial Ministry of Environment.

Story continues below advertisement

Michael Russello, an associate professor of biology at UBC's Okanagan campus, said the snakehead, were it to breed, would be a big threat to B.C. aquatic life. "It has a fantastic ability to reproduce and spread. They are an ambush predator," he said. "They can completely decimate native fish populations."

Out of the dozens of species of snakehead, the one Mr. Herborg said his ministry is most concerned about, is the Northern Snakehead, which is especially hardy and capable of thriving and breeding in this climate.

B.C. is the only jurisdiction in North America that allows the importation of the Northern Snakehead, according to a 2006 report from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

It is illegal to import snakeheads into the United States, or to transport them across state lines. Ontario has laws prohibiting the public from owning live snakeheads, as do most American states.

B.C. currently has no laws restricting the possession and sale of snakeheads, and they are widely available in food markets and pet stores, said Mr. Herborg.

The Minister of Environment did not respond to questions about whether the snakehead sighting in Burnaby could lead to discussion about new laws banning it in the province.

Live snakeheads are available for sale at a variety of supermarkets in B.C., including in the seafood section at the chain of T & T Supermarket, said Sandra Creighton, a spokeswoman for T & T Supermarket Inc.

Story continues below advertisement

The ministry hopes to have scientists on the scene at the Burnaby lagoon by the end of this week, said Mr. Herborg, where they will be looking at a number of things, including the outflows from the lagoon into other bodies of water.

"These outflows eventually do link into the Fraser [River] so our worst-case scenario is this fish getting out into a big system like the Fraser, because if it is a Northern Snakehead, then it will be fine to live and spread there," said Mr. Herborg.

If the fish does get into the Fraser, Mr. Herborg said, it could have a significant impact on commercial and recreational fisheries.

Rod Gonzalez of Burnaby, a long-time fish keeper and enthusiast, was the one who spotted the fish and shot the video during a Sunday afternoon stroll with his three-year-old son. Mr. Gonzales said he did not expect that the video would be of interest to anyone other than a few of his fellow fish hobbyists. But within 48 hours, it was being viewed with serious concern by scientists in the Ministry of Environment.

Mr. Herborg, Mr. Russello and Mr. Gonzales all said that the invasive fish was most likely introduced into the lagoon by someone who bought it at either a pet store or food market, and then ill-advisedly released it.

"It's funny," said Mr. Gonzales. "My wife said to me, 'Out of all the people to see this, it had to be a fish geek like you.'"

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies