“Frankenfish” smuggler brought to justice

Snakehead fish pose a significant threat to native fish and wildlife resources. Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

Snakehead fish pose a significant threat to native fish and wildlife resources. Credit: Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

A Toronto man and a pet store near the Ontario city have been brought to justice for illegally exporting and selling Giant Snakehead fish from Canada into the U.S. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents were instrumental in the success of “Operation Serpent,” the multi-agency international undercover operation leading to the convictions.

Snakehead fish, sometimes called “frankenfish” or “fishzilla” because of their gaping tooth-filled mouths, have the unique ability to slither across land and live out of water for up to three days. Introduced from southeast Asia, these predatory fish feed voraciously and can deplete populations of native fish, frogs and aquatic insects. If released into the wild, snakeheads have the potential to disrupt recreational and commercial fisheries, including those in the Great Lakes.

"Frankenfish" smuggler brought to justice

INVASIVE SPECIES
Invasive species can cause economic and environmental harm and pose a risk to human health. More

Muk Leung Ip was sentenced to 60 days in jail, and both he and Lucky Aquarium received substantial fines for their illegal actions. In July 2011, Ip sent a shipment containing snakeheads from Ontario across the border to a Service special agent working undercover in upstate New York. Later that year, Ip sold 154 snakeheads to the same agent, knowing that the fish would be smuggled into the U.S. In addition to this conviction for violating the Lacey Act, Ip received six additional convictions under Canadian law and another under New York state law. 

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