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article imageGiant goldfish 'size of dinner plates' are becoming huge problem

By Marcus Hondro     Jun 28, 2015 in Science
You may not think a tiny goldfish could grow into a massive problem in Canadian, American and world waterways, but it can. It seems that when families no longer want Goldie they often dump the little guy into a lake, stream or other waterway.
Goldfish keep growing
The problem is that goldfish can survive with little oxygenation and even, it would seem, in cold water. And because they no longer have to wait until feeding time (to get but a few flakes) to eat, they keep gobbling and keep growing. Little Goldie is becoming Giant Goldie and eating food intended for other organisms.
Kate Wilson, an Aquatic Invasive Species Specialist for Alberta Environment and Parks, says the giant goldfish are turning up in big numbers in the province, as they are in other parts of North America and the world. They do not survive being flushed down the toilet but they do survive when people decide to get rid of an unwanted pet by dumping them into a waterway.
They survive all right — big-time.
"We had a pretty shocking find last year when we discovered four different age classes of goldfish living in a Fort McMurray storm water pond," Wilson told media last week. "That means they're breeding in the wild, which is remarkable considering how cold the winters are there. The biggest ones were the size of dinner plates."
Wilson, and others who specialize in invasive species, cannot yet say the full extent of the damage giant goldfish could do in the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways they are turning up in by the thousands, but she is concerned they could upset the natural order of things.
They are certainly eating and that may be leaving other organisms without a sufficient supply of food. Not only that but there are no creatures eating them to reduce their damage; that is because they are not from the neighborhood they are now living in and so have no natural predators there.
Seeking goldfish solution
No one is advocating flushing your pet goldfish down the toilet. That will kill them but Wilson points out that doing so "can cause diseases and parasites that...could potentially survive the process and end up being discharged into rivers and lakes." Not even dead goldfish should be flushed.
So the question becomes — what do you do with an unwanted goldfish? Well, you cannot legally take a fish from one body of water (even a goldfish bowl) to another — there's a fine for doing so — so even if you do not care about the problem a goldfish in the wild causes, releasing one is not an option, not legally. And, as noted, flushing them down a toilet is out, too.
Wilson did say this: if you come across a goldfish in the wild, you should kill it rather than throw it back. But hard to do that to Goldie, no? Say, here's a thought: unless you are certain that you want to keep Goldie DO NOT GET GOLDIE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sound reasonable?
Big problem, small solution.
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