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A local photographer discovered an invasive species at Munson Pond on Jan. 31.
While out for a morning walk, Wendy Eiler captured images of hundreds of goldfish swimming beneath the pond’s icy surface, but they are not native to the area.
It can’t be said for certain how these goldfish ended up in Munson Pond, but Lisa Scott, the executive director of the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) says it’s likely that someone got tired of their aquarium goldfish and decided to set them free.
“Goldfish, when they’re in an aquarium, they stay small, but once you put them in a larger environment like this pond or a lake, they’ll just continue to grow due to the increase in resources,” Scott explains.
She adds that goldfish are opportunistic, and if given the chance, they’ll eat invertebrates and amphibians including small frogs, tadpoles and salamanders, in addition to their normal diet of aquatic plants.
“Their activities also stir up the mud, which affects the turbidity of the water, and this then affects the growth of the aquatic plants,” she says, noting that goldfish can also carry diseases that can impact native fish populations.
Once there is an established school of fish population, it’s difficult to remove them.
“In some cases, if it’s a man made lake, you can drain the lake, or you could chemically treat it, but these are not options that are desirable,” Scott explains.
Electrofishing has been used in BC, but it does not eliminate the fish from the aquatic environment.
“They’re essentially part of the ecosystem now,” Scott says.
Munson Pond is also home to red-eared sliders, another invasive species.
“Unfortunately, people buy the turtles when they're small and cute, and they take them home and then they grow and get big and they think it's fine to set them free.”
Individuals who are considering releasing their pet are advised to reach out to their pet store and try to rehome it.
It is illegal to dump aquarium fish into local waterways.
Scott also says it’s important for people to report any species that might be invasive.
“We can’t always do anything about it, but knowing that it’s there gives us an opportunity to take action if something can be done,” she explains.
It will be up to the City of Kelowna to decide on the next steps for the goldfish in Munson Pond.
More information about invasive species can be found at oiso.ca and oasiss.ca.