DSCN3963 (2) WS
Brooklyn Botanical Garden – copyright Alan Conrad

This week on the Weather Network website I encountered another of those diatribes against people who release goldfish into public waters.

It was the usual thing. The goldfish are an invasive species competing with native species, overwhelming them, etc. People should realize that releasing their goldfish [here it was specifically flushing them down the toilet) damages the environment.

As far as ‘invasive species’ are concerned, they might read about UK ecologist Chris Thomas, who says that, more often than not, invasive species increase biodiversity rather than harm it.

As someone who has been fishing all his life, and who values all our native fish as much as anyone else, I say give the goldfish a break.

Whenever they’re put into lakes that have good populations of predator fish, they don’t get out of control, though they can get big. I was catching goldfish in bays and river mouths of Lake Ontario in the 1960s. The goldfish are still there, and still behaving themselves numberwise.

When they get into city ponds and small lakes, they run amok only when there are no predators. Rather than railing against people who don’t want to kill their goldfish pets, why don’t we just add some pike, pickerel or bass to these waters?  New York’s Central Park Lake has had bass, goldfish, catfish, sunfish and carp coexisting in it for a long time.

Also, by the way, goldfish eat a lot of mosquitoe larvae.

A city pond near my home has goldfish only, but their numbers  seem to be kept in check anyway by cormorants, herons and occasional visiting terns. The birds appear to welcome the goldfish, coming back week after week to hunt them.

So I say, release all the goldfish you want. Not in wilderness areas where they really don’t belong and don’t need to be, but in urban and town waters where we should welcome them as the companions of civilization that they are.

After all, they’re a beautiful fish and they’re are only doing what Mother Nature created them to do (the human contribution to their genes is less than 1%).

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