More than a decade ago, the northern snakehead was Public Enemy No. 1 on the Potomac River, an air-breathing, snaggletoothed invasive species that walked on land, dined on small reptiles and, in its way, plotted revolution on the Chesapeake Bay.
The snakehead is a lap dog compared with the blue catfish.
Since its introduction to Virginia waters in the 1970s, blue catfish have come to dominate several Chesapeake waterways, using their black-hole-like mouths to vacuum up whatever marine life gets in their way. Earlier this decade, the problem with predation became so acute that some nonprofit groups, watermen, seafood processors and retailers devised a lethal solution: They would work together to catch, market and serve blue catfish for dinner. Their plan has been such a hit that, in a few years, seafood processors have gone from handling zero blue catfish to millions of pounds of them annually.
But experts say a new federally mandated catfish inspection program threatens to hamper these efforts to control the swelling population of so-called blue cats. Click on the following sentence to access the full story.
With a provision tucked into the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress shifted authority for catfish inspections from the Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, arguing that the public needed the extra layers of protection from a potentially hazardous fish. Hundreds of members of the Senate and House have since been working to kill the program, calling it a waste of resources designed to protect a few Southern states whose catfish farms have lost millions of dollars to overseas competitors, which have to meet the tougher USDA standards.