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Dont Let It Loose

Releasing an organism into any body of water from which it did not originate is illegal in Saskatchewan, and across Canada. Doing so has the potential to start an invasion, and puts our native species at risk. "Don't Let It Loose" is a reminder that non-native organisms should never be released into any lake, river, stream, pond or storm drain.

Aquarium pets and plants, live seafood, live bait and fish can all become invasive species when released into waters where they are not already occurring.

1. Pets and Plants from Aquariums and Water Gardens

Many animals and plants sold for aquariums and water gardens are not native to Canada and can become highly invasive in Canadian waters. They may survive, reproduce and spread, becoming aquatic invasive species. Domesticated pets generally do not have the survival skills to live outside of a pond or tank, and risk starving to death or being eaten by predators if they are released into the wild. However, some aquatic species, such as goldfish, are highly adaptable and can quickly become established if released into Saskatchewan waters, outcompeting native species and causing serious impact to the aquatic environment.

Aquarium pets and fish

Goldfish and koi are common aquarium fish that have been found in storm water ponds in Saskatchewan and in hundreds of other waterbodies in Canada and the U.S. Goldfish are prolific breeders and can grow to the size of a football if released into the wild, impacting native species and degrading water quality. Other common aquarium species, such as snails, can also become invasive if introduced into Saskatchewan waterbodies, putting native species at risk for potential disease and competition for resources.

Aquarium and water garden plants

If released into the wild, water garden/aquarium plants, seeds or even plant fragments can become harmful weeds and cause an invasion. If the weeds become established, they could impact native fish, out-compete native vegetation, infest local beaches, and degrade water quality. Flowering rush is an ornamental aquatic plant species originating from Asia that has been found in the wild in Saskatchewan. This species, and other ornamental plants such as yellow-floating heart, Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaved pondweed are prohibited in Saskatchewan and cannot be possessed or released into the environment. Aquarium plants can also be contaminated with tiny mussels and snails that can cause devastating impacts to ecosystems if released.

Highly invasive zebra mussels and other non-native species of snails have been known to hitchhike on moss balls, a popular plant used in aquariums. AIS contaminated moss balls were confirmed in several jurisdictions across the U.S. and Canada, including Saskatchewan.

What should you do instead?

Be a responsible pet and plant owner:

  • Ask a friend, family member or pet store to adopt your pet if you no longer wish to keep it.
  • Research the species before purchasing. Make sure it is not invasive/prohibited and understand their life expectancy and size.
  • Select plants that are native to your region and ensure all plants are contained so they don't have the opportunity to spread into other waterbodies or storm drains.
  • Do not compost aquarium or ornamental plants. Dry and freeze them in tightly sealed bags before disposing in the trash. Follow these guidelines for more information about moss balls.
  • Report sightings of aquatic invasive species to the 24-hour toll-free TIPP line at 1-800-667-7561.

2. Live Food

Releasing live food products such as fish, crabs or shellfish into a waterbody is illegal. The majority of animals sold in the live food trade will not survive in Saskatchewan, and species that can may have the ability to become invasive and negatively impact native species. Many of these species are prohibited for sale in Saskatchewan, including fish species such as the Northern snakehead. However, these animals are periodically brought into Canada illegally. Seafood purchased for consumption should never be released into the environment. Non-native species unable to survive that are illegally released into Saskatchewan waterbodies still pose a threat to our aquatic environments, as these animals can introduce disease or pathogens into waterbodies even if they do not survive and establish.


3. Bait

Disposal of live bait has resulted in the introduction of many species of AIS in North America. The use of live fish for bait in Saskatchewan, including crayfish, frogs and salamanders, is prohibited. Many invasive fish, such as Prussian Carp, can be mistaken for common minnow species when young. Anglers should never dump live or dead bait into a waterbody, as this can lead not only to the introduction of aquatic invasive species, but also the spread of pathogens or diseases among native fish.

What should you do instead?

  • The only live bait permitted for use in Saskatchewan are locally sourced leeches and nightcrawlers certified for use as bait.
  • Never dump leftover bait, as even dead or frozen bait can carry diseases. Dispose of unused bait, dead fish, fish parts and water or debris from bait buckets in a secure trash area at least 30 metres away from the shore of the waterbody where you were fishing.
  • Always buy bait from local dealers and ensure the bait is certified to be free from diseases such as Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), which is established in other jurisdictions within Canada and could have a significant impact on our native fisheries if it were ever to be introduced to Saskatchewan.
  • Always check your bait for potential contamination of unwanted species such as zebra or quagga mussels.
  • Report sightings of aquatic invasive species to the 24-hour toll-free TIPP line at 1-800-667-7561.

4. Sport Fish

Sport fish are typically large and good predators, meaning that even though they are native species, they may quickly outcompete native species if introduced into waterbodies where they aren't already naturally occurring.

Moving or transporting live fish in Saskatchewan, and releasing fish into waterbodies where they did not originate, is unlawful unless authorized by a permit.

What should you do instead?

  • Never transfer live fish or crayfish from one waterbody to another.
  • Report sightings of aquatic invasive species to the 24-hour toll-free TIPP line at 1-800-667-7561.

To learn more about the national Don't Let It Loose campaign, visit the Department of Fisheries and Oceans site.

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