Something’s fishy at SFU’s reflection pond

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Concerns regarding the dumping of unwanted pet fish into Burnaby lakes and ponds has been brought to public attention in a recent article published by Burnaby Now.

The article stated that a local pet shop has been misinforming customers, claiming that SFU’s Burnaby campus welcomes any unwanted koi fish in the university’s reflection pond.

Recalling the release of a predatory snakehead fish into Burnaby Lake in 2012, it is not news that invasive species may pose a detrimental threat to Burnaby’s natural habitat. However, many people still believe they are doing the ‘right thing’ by releasing their unwanted fish into the wild.

Stephanie Green, an SFU PhD graduate from the Department of Biological Sciences, told The Peak that although people believe they are doing the right thing, it only takes a few individuals to release invasive species into the wild before they can “spread out of control.”

Green explained that because of the interconnectivity of ponds, lakes and rivers, “once an introduced species takes hold, it is very difficult to eradicate completely because of how quickly they can spread.”

Green emphasized how important it is for pet owners to be conscious of the needs of a fish, as well as how large it gets and its dietary needs, before buying it in order to avoid the problem of individuals purchasing a fish that they are unable to care for.

The article in Burnaby Now revealed that staff at a Petsmart in Vancouver were implying that it was acceptable to dump unwanted fish into Coquitlam ponds as well as SFU’s reflection pond. In an attempt to clarify this issue, Keith Horne, superintendent for SFU Mechanical Services, informed The Peak that, “it is NOT permitted to dump fish in any pond at SFU.”

Not only is this illegal, with fines ranging from $2,500 to $250,000, but the introduction of new fish may alter a pond’s fragile ecosystem, leading to issues such as overpopulation or illness among the fish population.

During routine draining and cleaning of the reflection pool, the fish are captured and housed at SFU’s Alcan Aquatic Research Centre until the cleaning is complete.

Although it is unclear as to whether the fish population has altered due to the dumping of unwanted fish into the reflection pond or by naturally occurring reproduction, one thing is sure: the dumping of unfamiliar fish into the reflection pond poses a detrimental threat to the fish already living there.

Bruce Leighton, an associate member of SFU’s Department of Biological Sciences, said, “[The] dumping of fish in the pond at SFU brings a disease risk to the fish that live in the pond.” Leighton added that the reflection pond is “already at capacity [for fish]”, thus adding more could lead to overpopulation, resulting in death for some of its piscine residents.

So, if you find yourself developing animosity towards your fishy companion, think twice before discarding it in a local pond. Instead, “find a pet store that will take it in,” as Green suggests.

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