'Don’t let it loose': Why invasive goldfish in Kelowna pond is a problem | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Don’t let it loose': Why invasive goldfish in Kelowna pond is a problem

A hungry heron snags a goldfish at Munson Pond in Kelowna in June.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ulrieke Birner

Munson Pond in Kelowna is a beloved gem for nature enthusiasts and photographers who enjoy the plethora of native flora and fauna found there, but the pond also harbours a hazardous invasive species.

Goldfish, introduced by humans, have been swimming in the pond for several years and the executive director of the Invasive Species Council of BC, Gail Wallin, said its part of an ongoing issue in lakes and ponds in the province.

“People do silly things and dump their pet fish in the ponds,” she said. “We’re very strong with our message to the public, don’t let it loose, and it’s always a good reminder.”

Goldfish are prolific spawners and can live for roughly 15 years, laying up to 50,000 eggs per year. They disrupt the natural balance of pond ecosystems and are almost impossible to get rid of. At this time of the year the fish are more easily seen as they are coming to the shorelines to spawn.

“All water bodies are habitat for aquatic and on aquatic species, and they’re rearing ponds for insects, a food supply for other animals,” Wallin said. “Ecosystems are intricate and balanced, and as soon as you have an invasive they’re competing with the natural life.

“When you have hundreds of goldfish spawning on the shorelines it changes the way pond plants are structured, causing more sediment.”

Goldfish are resilient and can survive for weeks without oxygen. They can swim down deep and survive the winters while the natural fish are killed off.

There aren't many ways to get rid of the them once they are introduced that is safe for the rest of the ecosystem. 

“We’re protective of our precious water,” Wallin said. “The fish can be removed through netting and electrofishing but it’s hard to target them all, and if some are missed the problem continues.

“There is a chemical that will kill the fish, but it’ll kill all the other fish in the lake, it’s really tough.”

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Wallin said the best way for the public to help is prevention and reporting.

“It’s illegal to release your goldfish into ponds. It’s bad for the environment and its bad for your pet fish," she said. We’ve had situations where landlocked backyard ponds released goldfish into the water system during flooding, giving the fish good chances of making into a lake.”

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The general public is encouraged to report invasive goldfish sightings through the council’s I Spy and Identify iNaturalist app.

“You don’t have to identify it, the experts will confirm. It gives land managers more information on the destruction of native species and they can build data. To help steward our waters, talk to your neighbours and take action to restore local ponds to better conditions."

Wallin said it isn't perfectly clear how long the goldfish have been inhabiting lakes and ponds in the province due to a lack of historical data and reporting. 

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Munson Pond is 3.8 hectares in size and located in Munson Pond Park in Kelowna’s South Pandosy neighbourhood near the intersection of Benvoulin Road and KLO Road, according to the City of Kelowna website.

The pond is named for the Munson family who were pioneer farmers in the area in the early 1890s.

Surrounded by mature cottonwood trees, the pond is an endangered ecological community and ranked by the BC Conservation Data Centre as one of the rarest in B.C.

Munson Pond is protected and managed through the Munson Pond Naturalization Project under the direction of the Central Okanagan Land Trust and the City of Kelowna, which includes the management of invasive species. 

“People do and continue to release goldfish into the pond and there was a huge population of them until a significant freeze the winter before last,” said president of the land trust, Wayne Wilson.

“We’re not doing active management of the goldfish at this stage, but we’re keeping an eye on it.” 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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