LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Pet fish and aquarium owners releasing their species into Michigan’s waters have led the state Department of Natural Resources to issue warnings for owners not to do so.
The warnings are a result of the department receiving several reports of “unique species” ending up in the state’s waterways every year.
“You know never how it’s going to affect all the other fish that are in there,” said Nathan Newsome of Blair Fish Co. “It could possibly wipe out habitat or wipe out a whole fish species. If it doesn’t belong there, then we don’t know how it’s going to affect it.”
State officials say while releasing fish bought in pet shops may seem harmless, they can become invasive and multiply by the thousands, or they can struggle to survive and to fend off more aggressive predators.
“Pet release is almost never humane. Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or find shelter,” said Nick Popoff, manager of the department’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit.
Seth Herbst, a biologist with the department, says while Michigan hasn’t yet suffered “detrimental impacts” from releasing pet fish, the potential is there.
Reduce Invasive Pet and Plant Escapes, or RIPPLE, is an environmental group that helps owners with proper maintenance and disposal of aquatic pets.
“If your fish or other species has outgrown its tank or has begun to feed on your other fish, you should consider donating or trading it with another hobbyist, an environmental learning center, an aquarium or a zoo,” said Jo Latimore with RIPPLE.