Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Marine Advisory Program (MAP)

Publication Date



Marine Resource Report No. 2020-08 | VSG 2020-30


The blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus, is an introduced freshwater species in Virginia’s tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. Since its introduction in the 1970’s, significant recreational and commercial fisheries have developed within upriver, largely freshwater environments. Blue catfish are voracious, opportunistic predators, feeding on a variety of natural prey items, including native fish and shellfish species. Their varied diets result in a more nutrient-rich fish compared to farmraised catfish (USDA Food and Nutrient Database html#/?query=catfish) on the market, which are typically fed a plant-based diet.

In recent years, blue catfish populations have expanded from upriver freshwater habitat to major brackish-water sub-estuaries of the Chesapeake Bay. With this expansion into marine habitat, blue catfish are developing more tolerance to salt water, while overlapping habitat supporting native marine prey species, which may influence their nutrient profiles. This prey interaction with native species, and their rapid increase in total biomass within Virginia tidal tributaries, has labelled blue catfish as an invasive species negatively influencing the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Efforts are underway by state and regional managers to expand commercial harvest to reduce pressure on native species and habitat. These efforts will be contingent upon adequate fish processing and diverse market expansion to maintain value in the fishery. Marketing strategies from harvest to consumption need to be developed to promote wild-caught blue catfish from the Chesapeake Bay. New and updated nutrition and health information for the consumption of wild-caught blue catfish from Virginia is pivotal for marketing success.



Blue catfish, invasive species, nutritional values, contaminant analysis, methyl mercury, PCBs