Small actions can have big consequences.
Witness the growth of the invasive goldfish problem in St. Albert. Who would have thought that disposing of tiny pet store goldfish would have the potential of wreaking havoc on the ecosystem?
But this week city crews will resort to using the pesticide Rotenone in the Edgewater and Ted Hole Park stormwater ponds in an effort to eliminate the goldfish, which are showing up in large numbers.
Using pesticide is not an action the city takes lightly. The city has been reducing its pesticide use in recent years to improve water quality as part of its environmental focus. But crews have already tried nets, electricity and winter ice to try to exterminate the goldfish, without success.
The drastic action is needed to prevent the invasive goldfish from making their way into the Sturgeon River where it is feared they could decimate native fish populations. The Edgewater pond has a sewer link to the Sturgeon River, which is worrisome.
The goldfish, when released into the wild, are hardier than local fish. They grow quite large and they compete for food sources choking out native fish. They are prolific breeders and can live in even poor quality water.
The goldfish problem is not limited to St. Albert. The goldfish have been found in Alberta ponds as far north as Fort McMurray.
The pesticide to be used in St. Albert has been applied successfully to eliminate goldfish in Okotoks, High River, Grande Prairie and Olds, which are among the communities that have goldfish problems.
But there is an environmental cost to this. The city of St. Albert intends to use the same pesticide next year in Lacombe Lake to wipe out goldfish there. The pesticide would also kill the crayfish and trout in the pond.
It is suspected that goldfish were released into the wild by pet owners who were done with them. Some may think their actions are a humane option, but not for the local fish.
Don’t flush goldfish down the toilet, even if they are dead, as it can spread disease. Unwanted goldfish should be buried or tossed in the trash.
A number of candidates for municipal office have included environmental protection in their campaign platforms. Protection of the river valley is important, including the fish habitat. The city is trying to do its part, but we all need to be vigilant.
We need to respect our water sources and our ecosystems. We need to be mindful of what we’re putting in the water.
Ultimately this goldfish problem was caused by carelessness and the cost to fix the problem comes out of everyone’s tax dollars. It just goes to show that environmental protection starts with individuals and we all have a role to play in protecting and respecting our ecosystems. Let the goldfish problem be a lesson for us all: even small things can become a big problem.