If you’ve seen Finding Nemo, you know what a clownfish looks like. But can you recognize a Carolina fanwort or Eurasian watermilfoil? They’re certainly not as cute as Nemo, but like clownfish, they are popular for aquariums.
Also unlike Nemo, these critters don’t want to go home and can cause devastating consequences if released into the wild. Eurasian watermilfoil crowds out the native plants that animals need for food and chokes waterways, impeding swimming and boating.
It might seem kind to release an unwanted pet or plant into the wild, but this can turn even the cutest pet into an invader that devastates or devours native plants and animals. Consider the apparently cuddly Canadian beaver, introduced to Argentina for fur production. Our plucky beavers quickly got revenge by escaping, multiplying and destroying forests.
Unwanted pets might be a treasure to someone else, so consider trading, or donating to an aquarium, pet store, or elementary school. Otherwise, experts recommend freezing your aquatic pet in a block of ice. It might seem strange to have your goldfish chilling out in the freezer with your ice cream and frozen seafood, but that’s the most humane way … as far as killing goes. It’s not our idea of fun, but neither is being flushed down the toilet!
Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. He’s a transdisciplinary environmental researcher, integrating ethics and social and natural sciences. Veronica Lo is a M.Sc. student studying non-native species at UBC (and is herself non-native to B.C.).