Alexa Peters looks out at the water at the Michael O’Brien Wetland in Red Deer on Monday. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Invasive fish spotted in Red Deer pond

Koi or Prussian carp should never be released into Alberta’s natural waterways

A golden invader is being released into Red Deer ponds and wetlands — which is bad news for native fish species.

The sighting of a bright orange fish swimming in the Michael O’Brien Wetland, north of Clearview, indicates a six-inch koi or Prussian carp is thriving in that scenic stormwater retention pond.

Since this foreign species will grow in size to suit its environment, Red Deer Parks superintendent Trevor Poth is concerned that a non-native fish could be poised to out-compete local species.

Invaders resembling goldfish have been spotted in various local streams and retention ponds. Poth noted that Red Deer’s retention ponds are connected to the Red Deer River by underground culverts, which means the carp can potentially get into the river.

Koi and Prussian Carp are already on the provincial radar as an invasive species. The aquarium fish are being illegally released by people who might think that Alberta’s climate will eventually kill their unwanted pets.

But Poth said that these carp are “spectacular” survivors. They voraciously eat plants and can live on very little oxygen in ponds that freeze right to the bottom.

Originally from Siberia, the invasive fish have established breeding populations across the province, and presents a serious threat to local aquatic ecosystems and native fish habitats, according to the Alberta Environment website.

Pond and aquarium owners need to ensure their pets stay isolated from the natural environment. If they don’t want their fish anymore they should consult with a veterinarian about disposing of these fish in a humane manner.

They can also pass them on to another aquarium owner, try contacting the retailer for a possible return, or donate the fish to a local aquarium society or school.

Fish and vegetation from aquariums and artificial ponds will disrupt the natural balance of Alberta’s ecosystems, and ultimately results in biodiversity loss: “Koi and goldfish…have no natural predators in Alberta and will out-compete native species for resources,” the website states.

Anyone caught releasing live fish into Alberta’s lakes or rivers faces a fine of up to $100,000.

Those who have noticed an invasive carp in a local waterway should call 1-855-336-2628 (BOAT) or contact the city.

Poth said a local task force has been assembled to deal with various invasive species, including plants and zebra mussels. Future actions will depend on gaining some funding in the 2019 city budget.

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A lookout at the Michael O’Brien Wetland in Red Deer. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Alexa Peters reads an interpretive sign at the Michael O’Brien Wetland in Red Deer on Monday. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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