Blue catfish were introduced into the James, York, and Rappahannock systems in eastern Virginia in the 1970s and 1980s to create new commercial and recreational fisheries.
Flathead catfish were introduced to the James River in the 1960s, and have since been spread to the York River system.
Both species are native to the muddy rivers of the Midwest, and they have been very successful in Virginia's tidal rivers. Their incredible success may be driven by the fact that these rivers now resemble their native rivers, largely due to erosion, nutrient pollution from agriculture, the collapse of the oyster population, and the subsequent disappearance of native aquatic grasses.
This page will highlight research pertaining to non-native catfish in Virginia's tidal rivers. These species are the center of much controversy, as they support economically important commercial and recreational fisheries, yet potentially threaten several important native species including blue crab, American shad, alewife, and blueback herring.