LifeScience.com has posted on a monster goldfish that was caught by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper (BNW) during a fish assessment of the Black Rock Canal. While this might seem unusual, there are tens of millions of goldfish in the Great Lakes, which has become quite a problem due to their invasive nature. Because they are an invasive species, the goldfish have no natural predators – it is possible that their cold coloration is a signal for potential predators to stay away.
It is not known how the goldfish originally made their way into the Great Lakes – the possibilities are endless. They could have escaped from a bait bucket, or survived a toilet flushing, or could have been released by a child after a county fair. Who knows? What we do know is that they are not welcome, but at this point there’s not much that can be done.
What is striking about this particular fish in the photo, is that it’s so large – 14 inches. But fish naturally grow as their surroundings allow – that’s why they remain small in fish bowls.
“The mysterious case of how this gigantic goldfish ended up in the Niagara River may never be solved, but the international intrigue that our informative post has created can only help call attention to two major problems plaguing the Great Lakes: aquatic invasive species and Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs),” says Jennifer Fee of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.
“Like tens of millions of other goldfish found in the Great Lakes, our little orange friend most likely ended up in the Black Rock Canal in one of two ways, 1) he or she was directly released into local waterways by a pet owner, or 2) this little fish had the biggest adventure of a lifetime through our city’s combined sewer system. Either way, the story ended well for this fish, but not for our water. Aquatic invasive species that don’t naturally belong in the Great Lakes, like this goldfish, are a constant threat to the health of native wildlife populations and their habitats. Large and small, hundreds of different invasive species continue to disrupt and cause damage to our Great Lakes.
“And though it is hard to believe, yes, many older Great Lakes cities have sewer systems that discharge directly into local waterways. Intentionally designed this way more than a century ago, these ‘combined’ systems collect rainwater and snowmelt, as well a sanitary waste from things like toilets, showers and dishwashers. On most days, all of the wastewater makes its way to the treatment plants, but on days of heavy rain or snowmelt, the pipes that carry the wastewater are overwhelmed, and to safeguard homes, businesses and the treatment plant, the sewer overflow will be released into local waterways with little to no treatment. These systems are slowly being improved, but it will take several decades and tens of billions of dollars to fix.
“The Great Lakes contain over 20% of the world’s fresh water, nearly 85% of the North America’s fresh water. The issues facing the Great Lakes are interconnected through a complex relationship of chemistry, biology and physical processes. Our lakes are worth protecting, and if the picture of this little fish can help raise awareness and attention, then maybe the next fish story provides a happier ending for our lakes and rivers.”
Photos of Marcus Rosten – US Fish & Wildlife Service: Courtesy of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper | Hat tip to Lorne Opler in Toronto for passing along the story