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Invasive snakehead fish rebranded as "Chesapeake Channa" to sound more appetizing

Snakehead fish, invasive species in Chesapeake, being rebranded
Snakehead fish, invasive species in Chesapeake, being rebranded 02:18

BALTIMORE -- The snakehead fish is an invasive species that came into Maryland in the early 2000s. Now the fish is undergoing a rebrand to help control the population.

Snakehead fish have been a big problem for the area's aquatic ecosystem because they eat everything, but nothing eats them, except for people.

To encourage more people to eat snakehead fish, and hopefully control the population, Maryland lawmakers thought the scientific name, Chesapeake Channa, sounded more appetizing. So that is the new official name. 

"We have to eat our way out of this problem."

The invasive species, known for its ability to survive on land, has been disrupting the bay's ecosystem - eating rockfish, oysters and crabs –  since it was introduced in Anne Arundel County about 20 years ago.

"There's no natural real predator for them in the bay. We're the predators so we have to eat our way out of this problem as we like to say," said Matthew Scales, Seafood Marketing Director for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.   

"The more that folks are eating it and more interested in trying the Chesapeake Channa the more we're going to be able to pull out of the bay and the tributaries," said Stephanie Pazzaglia, the Outreach and Development Manager for the seafood processor and distributor J.J. McDonnell.   

Pazzaglia said they started processing and distributing Channa about six years ago and are currently doing about 1,000 pounds a week. 

Chesapeake Channa is harvested by bow fishing, and seafood buyer Mitchell Bode said the market for Channa has a lot of potential.

"It is benefiting our economy by providing jobs - new jobs that is - but also helping our ecosystem," said Bode.

What is the Chesapeake Channa like?

You can get Chesapeake Channa for $16.99/pound at Wegmans. 

At the Wegmans in Columbia, seafood manager Dave Burks is happy to answer customers' questions about Chesapeake Channa. He said it's comparable to rockfish or mahi mahi and makes an excellent fish taco.

"Get it out on the grill and grill it up," said Burks. "You can pan-sear it, you can bake it, you can broil it, you can blacken it."

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