This video (click here for video) captures the devastating impact of blue catfish on local native species in the Chesapeake Bay. The sucking sound heard in the video is the result of millions of blue cats consuming baitfish and wiping out local populations. The estimated biomass of blue cats in the Chesapeake Bay is approaching an alarming 1 billion pounds, while the wild rock population is estimated at a mere 80 million pounds (1/12th the biomass).
These invasive fish grow quickly, about 5 pounds a year, reaching 100 pounds and living for 20 years. Fishermen in the area predict that the channel cat population in the upper Bay will be extinct within five years due to the voracious appetites of blue cats.
Not only are blue cats decimating the channel cat population, but they are also causing significant declines in white perch populations in the Chester River. The fisherman seen in the video saw his first blue cat in 2012. This means in 10 years, blue cats went from almost non-existent in the upper Bay (generally considered the area from the Bay Bridge to the mouth of the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace, Maryland) to wiping out the entire channel cat population.
These predatory fish are eating not just one species but many of the fish that inhabit the same parts of the river, including white perch, yellow perch, shad, herring, adult and juvenile rockfish, and others. The poor reproduction rate of wild rockfish, as seen in the Young of the Year (YOY) index being under 4.0 since 2018, is a dire indication that native fish populations are struggling to survive against the top predator in the Chesapeake.
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