A video of an invasive species released in a southwest Saskatchewan waterbody has surfaced.
On May 29, conservation officers were made aware of footage showing what was described by the complainant as a “koi” fish swimming around Junction Reservoir northwest of Maple Creek.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment told Global News on Tuesday that the allegation hasn’t been confirmed but it’s looking into the video.
“All we have at this time is the video,” said Jeri Geiger, team lead for the aquatic invasive species program with the ministry.
“There is no evidence at this time to show that (this is a hoax) … The video is somewhat difficult, it’s a little bit fuzzy so identification is a little bit difficult. But like I said, at this time, there’s no reason to not believe that the video is … what it is suggested to be.”
Many details surrounding the video are still unknown, according to Geiger.
“We haven’t been able to confirm ID yet. That’s sort of the next steps of what we’re working on and … find out if we’re dealing with one fish, multiple fish, et cetera,” she said.
“In order for koi to reproduce, there would need to be multiple fish in the reservoir, obviously male and female fish, in suitable conditions to be able to reproduce. So that’s part of the reason why we’re looking to try and confirm whether we have one fish in the reservoir or if we’re dealing with multiple individuals.”
Geiger said the introduction of non-native species into Saskatchewan waterways can have a negative impact on the natural ecosystem.
“With any invasive species, especially for aquatic invasive species, some of the biggest concerns are just the impacts to native species so they can outcompete native species,” she said.
“They obviously are eating the same food. So there’s less food for our native species, game species, to survive. They compete for habitat and there’s sometimes, depending on the species, just not the same amount of natural predators that there are for other native species.”
Geiger said, under the federal Fisheries Act, the release of any non-native or non-Indigenous fish into the wild or into the environment is illegal and offences have a maximum penalty of $100,000.
The aquatic invasive species co-ordinator added this is not the first reported instance of koi being released in the province.
“We’ve had reports of koi in other locations in the province over the years, similar to goldfish, it’s a very common aquarium species. So, unfortunately, we do tend to see releases of species such as goldfish and koi too often, unfortunately,” Geiger said.
“There’s been reports over several years. It’s been back for quite some time of koi in Boundary Reservoir, reports from anglers in the past. And actually this spring, our aquatic invasive species program conducted electro-fishing monitoring in Boundary Reservoir and did not locate any invasive koi in Boundary Reservoir.
“There are a number of other locations of goldfish.”
Geiger said there is the potential that koi could survive over winter in Saskatchewan.
“When it comes to common aquarium species like goldfish and koi that are found in aquariums or water gardens and ponds, if it’s no longer wanted and you’re looking to dispose of it, it may be a tough choice to make and you may not want to humanely euthanize the fish,” Geiger said.
“It’s a better option than releasing it into the environment just because of the negative impacts that can result.”
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Maple Creek conservation officers through the Turn it Poachers & Polluters line at 1-800-667-7561.
Maple Creek is approximately 370 km west of Regina.