Provincial and local stream enhancement officials are warning Islanders against releasing koi fish into Island streams and waterways.
Workers with the Tignish and Area Watershed Management Group discovered a koi fish in the Harper Road Brook, a tributary of the Tignish River on Friday.
“We were in working and all of a sudden Miss Koi Fish was sitting right there,” said Chavonne Gavin, watershed coordinator.
The group was moving through the stream when one of the workers looked back and pointed to what she thought was a buoy, Gavin relates.
Matt Wedge, a watershed technician with Forest, Fish and Wildlife took a look: “That’s not a buoy; it’s a koi fish,” Gavin describes his discovery.
They tried to capture the fish and called in conservation officers to assist, but the orange and black fish vanished.
Gavin, Wedge and other volunteers returned to the site Saturday morning. “As soon as I got in the water she was right in front of me,” Gavin said. She and Wedge subsequently captured the fish and had it euthanized. It was 20 inches long and about a foot in diameter. It weighed between five and six pounds, they report.
Gavin said they’ve named the koi Nemo.
Wedge said such fish are not meant to be in the Island’s waterways. “We want people to think long and hard before owning a koi fish,” he said. “They are not like a goldfish or a beta fish you buy at a pet mart. They can grow up to 100 years old and also to a great size. With a great size comes a great appetite for all the native species in our waters.”
He advises, “If you own a koi fish and you want to get rid of it, find somebody who will take it and give it a new home or humanely euthanize it yourselves.”
Although Fish and Wildlife biologist, Rosie MacFarlane said koi are believed to be quite rare, she noted one was spotted in the Morell River last July but efforts to capture it at that time were unsuccessful. They finally caught it in late fall while out collecting brood stock.
MacFarlane took possession of the fish and delivered it to the Atlantic Veterinary College for a necropsy. The species, she said, is known to carry a herpes virus and another virus. “I just want to make sure these are clean fish,” she said of the purpose of the examination.
Gavin thinks the fish was doing quite well in the Harper Road Brook, noting there were many small trout in the stream to feed on.
Koi are known to be omnivorous, meaning they will eat both plants and small animals. They are also harmful to the environment, MacFarlane noted. “If they get into a pond they can foul it up, because they root in the mud.”
“People don’t like to kill the, so people should think about whether or not they can look after a fish for a very long-term before they get one of these,” MacFarlane warns, “because they can live a very long time. There’s one on record that lived 226 years."
Gavin said she’s been working with the watershed group for 11 years and never before saw such a fish in the wild. Because of their bright orange colour, they are easily seen, she noted.