The recent discovery of a non-native, armoured catfish (which would look more welcome on Game of Thrones than in an Ontario creek), serves as yet another reminder of why pets shouldn’t be released into the wild.
Fish found belly-up
David Speicher found the pterygoplichthys gibbiceps belly-up in the water on Oct. 25, as his family walked Hamilton’s Redhill Creek to see the salmon run. He retrieved the large black fish, took photos, and contacted some fish expert friends.
They opened communication with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, University of Toronto, and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), which intends to preserve the specimen because of its large size.
Native to Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, the catfish almost certainly succumbed to plunging fall water temperatures. It’s a popular aquarium dweller because of its unusual appearance and ability to eat algae.
Speicher, a molecular virologist and clinical epidemiologist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton and an avid outdoorsman, shared the find on social media, Tweeting “#Invasivespecies is serious business … Never release domestic fish into the wild!”
Pet adoption has increased during the pandemic and many – particularly fish or snail varieties – are invasive to our environments, said Brook Schryer of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) Invading Species Awareness Program (ISAP).
The aquatic specialist echoed Speicher’s message. “If they can no longer take care of a pet, they should return it to the store where it was purchased, donate it to a school group, or considering euthanizing it humanely.”
Those who encounter a species they don’t recognize are asked to take a couple clear photos of the specimen, mark their location, and report the sighting to the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or online at www.EDDMapS.org/Ontario.
Earlier this year, a large school of goldfish were spotted in a Port Perry stormwater pond not far from Lake Scugog.