Don’t flush your fish! Province pushes campaign against aquarium dumping

Prussian Carp found in a small stream.
Prussian Carp found in a small stream. Global News/2012

CALGARY – A new provincial campaign is asking Albertans to stop flushing live fish down the toilet.

Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) says they plan to launch a campaign this summer called “Don’t Let It Loose”, which focuses on the growing issue of aquarium dumping.

Kate Wilson, Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist with AEP, says they’re seeing more and more cases of non-native species of fish in bodies of water, because people are dumping live fish from their aquariums into stormwater ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams.

“A lot of people are starting to think that’s the humanitarian thing to do,” said Wilson. “We would never, ever condone that whether it’s a rabbit, turtle or fish. Domestic pets do not belong in the wild.”

Some fish are hardy and can compete with native species, or they may have diseases or parasites.

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The most common case of aquarium dumping is goldfish in stormwater ponds in urban areas.

There have been reports from Lethbridge all the way up to Fort McMurray.

“It has taken us by surprise,” said Wilson.

“This is definitely more widespread than anyone anticipated.”

Some stormwater ponds in Calgary have been stocked with Prussian Carp, and people are illegally fishing and eating the fish.

In northern Alberta, 40 goldfish were pulled out of a body of water with different ages.

“They’re surviving the winter, breeding in the wild and have been there for a fair amount of time,” said Wilson.

Unless it’s a private pond, stocking fish in bodies of water is illegal and leads to fines up to $100,000 and court appearances.