Don’t Let it Loose: What to do with Unwanted Aquatic Pets
With Arizona’s beautiful lakes and weather, we have an exceptional opportunity for year-round fishing. Our goal is to keep fish and other aquatic wildlife happy, healthy, and available for all to enjoy. But we’re not able to achieve all of this on our own. With your help, we can keep sportfishing alive and well in Arizona. By following daily catch and bag limits, and by also identifying your catch, you can help us keep our fishing areas populated and healthy.
Effects of released pets on wildlife
Introduced pets — even goldfish — can have devastating effects on native wildlife and ecosystems. They can outcompete sportfish and natives for food and space, prey on native species, and have unforeseeable effects on the food web, ultimately disrupting fish availability for anglers. Even aquarium pets, once established, can easily take over an aquatic system and have devastating effects on our native and sportfish populations.
While most non-native tropical fish are bright in color, some goldfish will lose their bright colors and grow upwards of 5 pounds, resembling a large crappie or perch. There are many other exotic fish and pets that have found their way into Arizona’s waters, and we here at Game and Fish want to prevent their spread and keep them from degrading Arizona’s fishing opportunities. This is why the Aquatic Invasive Species program has partnered with the Don’t Let It Loose campaign focusing on the harmful effects of releasing pets and helping pet owners find responsible ways to care for their unwanted pets.
What you can do
We are asking for your help in catching these nonnative pets that have been released into Arizona’s beautiful lakes, ponds, and streams. If you catch an unidentifiable fish or one that you can identify as nonnative, DO NOT release it back into the water.
Here’s what you can do instead:
- Take a photo and mark the location found and report it to the Aquatic Invasive Species program.
- If you think you may have found a species listed on Director’s Order 1, such as any of the snakehead and Asian carp species, please place the fish in ice and contact the Aquatic Invasive Species program as well, so it can be collected for testing.
- If you or someone you know has any aquarium pets they do not wish to keep, do not release them into any lakes, ponds, or streams. We encourage the public to help us spread the message to other pet owners, and together we can stop the harmful and illegal introduction and spread of unwanted species.
If you would like to report a nonnative species, please contact the Aquatic Invasive Species program at 623-236-7608.
See more information about the program and invasive species.
If you would like more information on the Don’t Let It Loose campaign or information on rehoming an unwanted pet, please visit the Don’t Let It Loose website at http://www.dontletitloose.com/state/arizona.