A harmless pet or an invasive species?
Gold Fish or Carassius autatus have been great household pets for generations– we thank them for that. Native to East and Central Asia goldfish can live in a variety of habitats, adapt to poor water conditions and have a wide range of dietary options. While these characteristics may be helpful for the pet owner the goldfishes’ ability to adapt makes them highly invasive. When introduced to our watersheds a variety of direct negative impacts follow.
How are goldfish ending up in local watersheds across the country you might ask? It is more common than one may think. This cute, loveable, pet lives approximately 6 - 7 years but have been known to live up to 30 (USGS). So what happens when a family moves or a child gets bored? Many times the fish is brought to a local pond and “released.” A study surveying 2,000 teachers in 10 states reveled that one in four teachers who utilize live animals in the classroom release the species in the wild – many of which are invasive (Sea Grant Study). Other means of introducing this invasive species include; aquaculture, live seafood, live bait, fish vessels, forage and the aquarium trade.
According to the USGS goldfish have been reported in every state excluding Alaska and maintains reproducing populations in at least 45 states. Many of us heard about the recent discovery of more than 15 “gigantic goldfish” discovered in Lake Tahoe this past February. These fish were 1.5 feet long and 4.2 pounds. Goldfish – when removed from the in-home tank – cause harm to native species and ecosystems. For example goldfish excrete nutrients that cause algal blooms and result in muddy water conditions. They also consume and compete with native species while taking a toll on native wildlife as a whole. This is why some places around the country are; considering banning goldfish from pet stores, making it illegal to bring them in from other states, or are developing hotlines to report dump sitings.
So what can we do to ensure we don’t end up with another invasive species in the foothills? Instead of “releasing” or dumping your pet goldfish outside in your local waterways; you can take them to your local pet stores. Additionally teachers can contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to raise a trout in their class room and release it into the appropriate body of water. Schools can incorporate discussions about invasive species into their curriculums and we can share this information with our community!
Please feel free to contact the Chowchilla Fresno River Watershed Coordinator to learn; what pet stores will accept returned goldfish in your area, to learn more about raising a trout in the class room or to have us speak about this and/or other watershed related topics at your school or community group.
Chowchilla/Fresno Rivers Watershed
Chowchilla Red Top Resource Conservation District
Who and How to Contact for More Information:
Project Title: Whisky Ridge Ecological Restoration Project
The Chowchilla Red-Top RCD through the Central Sierra Watershed Committee has been engaging in collaborative public process to help ensure that all parties' interests are represented before direct action occurs on public lands.
Project Title: Upper San Joaquin River Stewardship Council/Watershed Assessment Program
Project Title: Upper Fresno River Watershed Assessment
Project Title: Valuing Watersheds: Mariposa County Process and Perception in CALFED Waters A Case Example: Mariposa County (Mariposa Watershed Assessment)
What is a watershed?
A watershed is the "area of land" where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, or ultimately the ocean. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes; and cross county, state, and national boundaries.
Where is the Chowchilla Fresno River Watershed?
Why are we interested in watersheds and why are they important?
No matter where you are or live, you are in a watershed, and our individual actions can directly affect it. If your septic system is faulty it can affect your well and even your neighbor’s well (drinking water). If you inadvertently plant invasive weeds in your garden or don’t clear noxious/invasive weeds from your property, they can spread to adjacent wild lands and can compete with the native plants for water. If fire breaks are not created or dead trees not removed this could create a fire hazard which then in turn uses up our water to try and stop the fire. If a flood should occur, eroding stream & river banks can impact your water quality. These are just a few ways our watershed can be affected. Since, watersheds do not follow town, county, state, and national boundaries we need to work together to guarantee future generations clean and useable drinking water. What happens in one area does have a positive or a negative effect on an entire watershed. What we do individually and as a whole watershed community makes a difference in your watershed everyday.
What does the Watershed Coordinator do?
A Watershed Coordinator offers assistance to citizens interested in the voluntary approach to watershed management and conservation. This is done through engaging stakeholders in the watershed and developing committed support for watershed protection and restoration from landowners, local government, state and federal agencies and the local community organizations. The Watershed Coordinator focuses on collecting area information and providing education regarding water conservation, noxious weed eradication, ground water, and fuel reduction through a Watershed Council. This voluntary Watershed Council will be made up of volunteers, community stakeholders, and other interested citizens. The Watershed Council will develop the priorities of each watershed as well as provide local assistance through workshops, a web site, and educational materials for this voluntary approach to watershed management and conservation.
Jeannie Habben receives the 2012 Employee of the Year Award from the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts.
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