Prevent invasive fish species

Releasing live fish into Alberta waterbodies is illegal.

Invasive species of fish are being found across the province due to intentional or accidental introductions into Alberta waters. Aquarium owners and anglers can help prevent the introduction and spread of invasive fish.

Aquarium owners

Water gardeners, pond and aquarium owners have a number of responsibilities, including:

  • taking good care of the species that they keep
  • ensuring their artificial water environment stays isolated from the outside environment
  • when necessary, disposing of the fish or plants from that environment in a safe and humane manner

Don’t let it loose! Never dispose of plants and fish from aquariums and ponds into an Alberta stream, lake or river system. Releasing them disrupts the natural balance of Alberta's ecosystems, and ultimately results in biodiversity loss.

It is illegal to release live fish into Alberta's lakes or rivers. Fines can be up to $100,000.

Oriental weather loach, a prohibited species, have been intercepted and removed from several pet stores in Alberta. If you have purchased an Oriental weather loach, call the invasive species hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT (2628). Learn more here: Oriental weather loach alert

Goldfish & Koi

Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Goldfish, as well as other common aquarium fish, such as koi, have been released into ponds and can survive Alberta's climate and grow to be very large. They have no natural predators in Alberta and will out-compete native species for resources. The presence of goldfish or koi has been verified at over 70 locations across the province.

If you are no longer able to care for a fish from your pond or aquarium, do not release it into an Alberta water body. Try:

Koi fish (Cyprinus rubrofuscus)
Koi fish (Cyprinus rubrofuscus)
  • contacting the retailer for advice, or for a possible return/surrender
  • giving it to another aquarium or pond owner
  • donating it to a local aquarium society or school
  • talking to a veterinarian about humane disposal

Learn more:

Prussian carp

Invasive species Prussian carp

The Prussian carp is a relative of goldfish that has been illegally released into various waterbodies in Alberta.

This invasive fish species has established breeding populations across the province, and presents a serious threat to local aquatic ecosystems and native fish habitats. In Canada, Prussian carp has only been found in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Catch it, kill it – if you catch Prussian carp while angling, please kill it and either take it home to eat or properly dispose of it in the garbage.

Anglers

Do not transfer live fish from one water body to another.

  • It is illegal to move live fish from one water body to another. Doing so disrupts the local ecosystem, threatens the existing fish population and, if a stocked fishery, jeopardizes the future of that fishery.
  • Fish that are illegally released into a stocked fishery can undermine efforts to maintain that fishery for the enjoyment of all Alberta anglers.
  • Once an illegal introduction has occurred in a stocked fishery, the efforts to restore it are extremely expensive and can bring harm to other parts of the local ecosystem.
  • Penalties for illegally transferring fish into any water body aside from the one it was caught in can be up to $100,000 and/or a year in prison.
  • Fish introduced from outside of Canada can cause significant damage to local fish populations. Though not currently found within Canadian waters, the silver and bighead carp are threatening to find their way to the Great Lakes. These fish, introduced into US waters from Taiwan, are voracious eaters and out-compete native trout and salmon. These carp are also known for their capacity to leap out of the water, creating a hazard for water skiers and boaters.
  • To prevent the introduction of unintended species, put any unused bait back in its original packaging and put it in a garbage container.
  • Do you wear waders when you fish? Felt-soled waders are highly absorbent and, if not properly cleaned, can transfer invasive species and diseases from one water body to another. Soak them in hot water for at least 40 minutes and completely dry them after every use, or better yet, switch to non-felt-soled waders.

Black bullhead

Invasive species black bullhead catfish being measured

The Texaco East pond near Fort McMurray was restocked with rainbow trout in 2017, following an eradication treatment in 2015 to eliminate the illegally introduced black bullhead. For more information, see:

If you have seen any prohibited fish species or anything you can't identify, take a picture and call 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

Invasive fish treatment

As invasive fish species become established across the province, it is important for organizations to work together to prevent the spread, minimize impacts and use control methods to eradicate them where possible. Rotenone treatments are used by the Alberta Government and partners due to the high likelihood of success in eliminating undesirable fish species from compromised waterbodies. Organizations, such as municipalities, can also perform select treatments to eradicate invasive fish species. Here is what you need to know to prepare for doing a treatment:

Mandatory reporting of aquatic invasive species

As of July 2015, there are 25 prohibited fish species under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act. It is mandatory to report any of the 52 prohibited species listed (PDF, 12.5 MB) in the Fisheries (Alberta) Act within 14 days of finding them to provide the best chance of response success. There are three ways to report invasive species:

Meeting the criteria for treatment

Regardless of an unintentional or intentional release, if there is evidence that invasive fish have established, response needs to be considered.

Response for fish included on the list of 52 prohibited species under the Fisheries (Alberta) Act will be priority for Alberta Environment and Parks.

For fish species (such as goldfish, koi or Prussian carp) that are not listed in provincial regulations, Alberta Environment and Parks can help support response treatments by guiding the approval process and support the development of response plans in conjunction with the organization or municipality. Legislation supporting treatments for species that are not included in the prohibited species list include the Fisheries (Alberta) Act, Section 11.01 (1) and the Federal AIS Regulations, Section 10. Both state that any organism that is not indigenous is prohibited to enter water of any kind, unless authorized by provincial or federal law.

Public requirements for fish removal using rotenone

Control of invasive fish is most feasible in isolated ponds, however, once released into flowing connected bodies of water, control efforts are exponentially more complex. Rotenone has been effective in the removal of invasive fish when used on its own, or in conjunction with other methods as compared to only using non-chemical methods (netting, water table fluctuations, electrofishing, etc.).

To learn more about rotenone, check out the factsheet below:

Requirements for fish removal using rotenone requires four main steps prior to treatment. The following are outlined below:

  1. Special Use Approval (Pesticide (Ministerial) regulation, Section 9), is required if using/applying/storing a pesticide in or within 30 meters of an “open body of water” (refer to definition below) unless following the Environmental Code of Practice for Pesticides.
    • Open Body of Water: as defined under the Pesticide Sales, Handling, Use and Application Regulation, “open body of water” means the bed and shore of an irrigation canal, drainage canal, reservoir, river, stream, creek, lake, marsh or other body of water, but does not include the following:
      • waterworks systems;
      • reservoirs, lakes, marshes or other bodies of water that are completely surrounded by private land, that have an area of less than 4 hectares and have no outflow of water beyond the private land;
      • reservoirs, lakes, marshes or other bodies of water that are located on public land, that have an area of less than 0.4 hectares, and have no outflow of water;
      • irrigation and drainage canals that are completely surrounded by private land and have no outflow beyond the private land;
      • roadside ditches;
      • wastewater systems;
      • storm drainage systems;
      • dry streams having a bed and shore averaging 0.5 meters or less in width within the boundaries of the treatment area;
      • a constructed water hazard that is located on a golf course and has no outflow of water beyond the golf course boundary
    • The application can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/pesticides-application-forms.aspx
  2. Fish Research License (Fisheries (Alberta) Act, Section 12) [ii] is required for anyone (person, agency or institution) whose work involves collecting, holding or sampling fish for inventory, research, educational or promotional purposes in Alberta.
  3. Deposit of Deleterious Substances Application (PDF, 270 KB) is required for any work in water that demands a substance to be added to the water that has the potential to degrade or alter the water quality affecting fish or fish habitat, including fish toxicants and pesticides.
    • Deleterious Substance: as defined under Fisheries (Alberta) Act (Section 34), “deleterious substance” means (a) any substance that, if added to any water, would degrade or alter or form part of a process of degradation or alteration of the quality of that water so that it is rendered or is likely to be rendered deleterious to fish or fish habitat or to the use by man of fish that frequent that water, or (b) any water that contains a substance in such quantity or concentration, or that has been so treated, processed or changed, by heat or other means, from a natural state that it would, if added to any other water, degrade or alter or form part of a process of degradation or alteration of the quality of that water so that it is rendered or is likely to be rendered deleterious to fish or fish habitat or to the use by man of fish that frequent that water,
  4. Acquire certifications or hire a contractor with: