Canadian Man Accused of Smuggling 'Fishzilla' into WNY

June 20, 2012 Updated Jun 20, 2012 at 6:54 PM EDT

By Kyla Igoe

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June 20, 2012 Updated Jun 20, 2012 at 6:54 PM EDT

Amherst, NY (WKBW) - Experts say the Northern Snakehead Fish is a voracious water predator that feeds on other fish and can actually travel on land, and grow more than 3 feet in length. It is nicknamed 'Fishzilla". The fish is native to China, Russia and Korea but is trickling into the states. Now a Toronto pet dealer is in hot water and accused of smuggling this invasive predator into Western New York. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says Muk Leung 'Jim' Ip smuggled thousands of dollars worth of Snakeheads and other fish into the United States. Officials say the 49-year-old was busted when he sold the invasive species to an undercover U.S Fish and Wildlife Service agent.

"They can reach sizes of 3 feet or longer and have a great appetite for other fish," said Department of Environmental Conservation Biologist Michael Todd.

D.E.C. Biologists identified two populations of the fish in downstate New York. In those cases, staffers successfully eliminated those populations with aquatic pesticides. No cases have been documented in Western New York. Officials say if the species were to infiltrate our region, it would have a devastating effect on our local waterways and could wipe out the native fish.

"They can displace entire fish populations," added Todd. "That would impact local fishing and our economy."

Ip is now facing federal felony charges in the U.S. and Canada. He was arrested and charged in Canada and given an August court date. Officials are working to transport the 49-year-old back to the states to face his charges. He is currently not in Canadian custody. For more information about the Northern Snakehead Fish visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/45470.html