Orange scourge: district working to stop spread of invasive goldfish

Goldfish thrive in Peace Region farm dugouts. Now, the regional district is taking steps to keep the species out of lakes and streams.

You might think your pet goldfish is ill-suited to a Peace Region winter and that, in the event it outgrows its fishbowl, you can deposit it in a local pond and let nature take its course.

You’d be wrong.

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Invasive species staff with the Peace River Regional District are warning pet owners to keep their fish out of local waterways after an increase in goldfish infestations in local dugouts and ponds.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Trish Morgan, the regional district’s general manager of community services. “There’s nothing here that wants to eat them, and they just grow and grow.”

Controlling the region’s invasive goldfish population is part of a new regional district plan to stamp out aquatic pests.

On Nov. 24, the regional district board moved to start discussions with the Invasive Species Council of B.C. about keeping water-borne invasive species out of five regional parks.

Electoral Area B Director Karen Goodings found out the hard way just how disruptive a goldfish infestation can be.

A few years ago, 18 goldfish found their way into her farm dugout in the rural community of Cecil Lake.

“We started with 18 in our dugout, we have thousands (now),” she said. “If you have goldfish in your goldfish bowl, please don’t take them to the lake or flush them down the toilet.”

“They’re very difficult to get rid of,” Goodings added, saying goldfish have no natural predators in the region. She’s even considering draining the dugout to kill off the species.

“These goldfish spawn as soon as the ice lifts, and they stir up the mud like you would not believe,” she said.

Goldfish infestations are a familiar problem in Alberta, where they’ve long been known to conquer dugouts. A species of carp, the fish infiltrate fish spawning grounds in southern parts of B.C. and eat salmon fry and eggs. They are a particular problem at Como Lake in Coquitlam, accord to a regional district report.

Despite the Peace Region’s cold temperatures, goldfish are able to burrow into mud and survive the winter, Morgan says.

The district hopes to use signage at regional parks as well as information campaigns to discourage residents from releasing goldfish into the wild.

The invasive species council will also investigate whether the fish have gotten into any waterways in regional parks—which would disrupt local ecosystems. So far, B.C. Parks officials are not aware of any goldfish infestations in regional parks.

reporter@dcdn.ca

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