Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Exotic Alert

Atlantic Salmon

Ministry of Environment encourages anglers to report the catch of Atlantic salmon [PDF 109KB] in lakes and streams near the west coast of the province. Anglers are asked to pay special attention to salmon with unusual spotting and eroded fins.

Atlantic salmon can be identified by:

  • 8-11 anal fin rays (Pacific salmon have 11-13 rays)
  • very noticeable, large, black spots on the gill cover (not common on native salmon)
  • large scales and black spots on the back
  • may have very noticeably eroded or worn fins from containment in net-pens

Report any captures or sightings of Atlantic salmon to the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, 250 756-7000 (collect).

The entire fish (including entrails) should be saved, preferably frozen, for positive identification and biological sampling, with as much information as possible regarding date, location and method of capture.

Atlantic Salmon

Yellow Perch

(in Elk, Langford and Shawnigan Lakes)
Yellow Perch
This non-native species has been introduced illegally into Elk, Langford and Shawnigan Lakes on Vancouver Island. The stocks appear to be thriving despite competition from established native trout and bass populations. Yellow perch are highly adaptive and females produce thousands of eggs for every inch of total length. Biologists are concerned about the serious impact this species may have on our native wild fish populations. We invite anglers to enjoy fishing for this species (catch limit = 20 per day), but remind you that moving live yellow perch – or any other species for that matter – can do irreparable harm to native fish populations and is an offense punishable by a fine. If yellow perch are found in other lakes, please report to regional fisheries staff in Nanaimo
(250 751-3100).

Stop the Alien Aquatic Invaders!

When you leave a body of water:

  • Remove any visible mud, plant parts, or other aquatic organisms before transporting equipment.
  • Drain water from equipment before transporting.
    (motors, bilges, and transom wells)
  • Clean and dry anything that comes into contact with water.
    (boats, trailers, anchors, fishing gear, boots, waders, dogs, etc.)
  • Never release plants, fish, or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.
  • Do not use parts of fish caught in one water body as bait elsewhere.

In addition:

Report illegal activities – If you see any activities associated with the intentional or accidental movement of live fish and other aquatic organisms, please report these activities to 1-877-952-RAPP (7277).
Note: It is illegal to possess or move live fish without a permit.
It is also illegal to use live fish for bait or hold live fish in a “live well” on your boat.
For visitors to B.C. and residents returning from outside of B.C.:
Boating and fishing gear exposed to waters outside of B.C. may transport alien diseases, parasites, or molluscs from distant watersheds into the province. If there is a possibility that your gear has been exposed to infested waters, please take additional care to thoroughly cleanse and sterilize it as follows:
  • Chlorine (regular household) bleach is a very effective disinfectant which can kill most organisms if used in the right concentrations. To kill resistant disease spores found in the mud, use either (i) 50% solution (1 part chlorine to 1 part water)–dip equipment into the solution or wipe or spray it on, OR (ii) 10% solution (1 part chlorine to 9 parts water) and soak your equipment for 10 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly to avoid damaging gear. Alternatively, pour nearly boiling water over your gear and allow it to cool. For gear and waders exposed to waters containing New Zealand mud snails, freezing for 8 hours or a 24-hour soak in 1% salt water solution is also effective.

Examples of harmful alien species spreading in B.C.'s aquatic ecosystems:

Already here:

  • Yellow perch, bass, and other introduced sport fish
    (see “Illegally Introduced Alien Sport Fish” on page 13 for more information).
  • Carp, bullhead, and other exotic fish.
  • Eurasian water milfoil – spreads quickly, degrading fish habitat and impairing boating, swimming and fishing activities; identified as a major threat to sockeye in Cultus Lake.
  • Bullfrogs – proliferate quickly and compete with or feed on native amphibian species, birds, and fish; implicated in the decline of some native frog populations in southern B.C.

On their way:

  • Whirling disease – a parasite that causes deformities to young native trout. (Present in Washington, Idaho and Montana)
  • New Zealand mudsnails – consume aquatic vegetation that immature trout and other species depend on. (Present in Washington, Idaho and Montana)
  • Zebra mussels – voracious filter feeders that can deplete the availability of microscopic organisms that other species depend on. (Present in eastern North America)
  • Spiny water fleas – are predatory and consume many types of native zooplankton that occur within a lake. (Present in the Great Lakes area)

The Province is committed to protecting B.C.’s native fish and their habitats from Aquatic Alien Invaders. In addition, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation have taken the lead in raising awareness and preventing the introduction and spread of alien species in B.C. waters.

A video/DVD entitled “Stop the Alien Aquatic Invaders” is available through the HCTF (250 940-9780).

Illegally Introduced Alien Sportfish

B.C.’s lakes and streams are home to over 80 species of freshwater or sea-run wild native fish, many of which support an impressive array of recreation angling opportunities for which the province is world-renowned. Our freshwaters are also home to non-native fish species that have been stocked in waters across the province to create and augment existing fisheries. Although some of these species have become established in areas where they were intentionally stocked, we are now seeing an expansion of non-native fish species into regions were they previously were not found. In particular, the southern and interior regions of B.C. have reported new occurrences of koi, carp, brown bullhead, yellow perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, black crappie, pumpkinseed sunfish and northern pike. The unauthorized introduction of any non-native fish species poses a threat to B.C.’s wild and stocked fisheries. Live fish should not be introduced into any natural waters by anyone other than the fisheries agencies, especially in waterways with connections to other systems that allow fish to expand their range. While non-native species support important recreational fisheries in intended areas, the uncontrolled expansion of non-authorized species in B.C. may be at the expense of our other high-value fisheries. The impact may be irreversible in many cases and once a species becomes established may be impossible to eradicate.

Ministry Response

The Ministry of Environment is developing policy to address the issue of illegally introduced sport fish. Actions will focus on preventing further illegal activities and minimizing impacts where illegally introduced sport fish species already occur. Where possible, these species will be removed from waterbodies. Where new introductions are reported, strict measures to prevent expansion will be undertaken including possible fishing closures. The Ministry recognizes that some historically established fisheries for non-native species support popular recreational opportunities. In such instances, a risk assessment will weigh the conservation risks and recreational benefits.

You Can Help!

Protecting our native aquatic systems and the fisheries they support is a high priority and a responsibility that we all share. Report any suspicious activity related to the illegal transfer of live fish to the Conservation Officer Service (1-877-952-7277). It is ILLEGAL to release alien species or any other live fish into B.C.’s lakes or streams, an offence which holds a penalty of up to $100,000 for first time offenders, and/or a prison term of up to 12 months for a second offence. In addition, a REWARD of up to $20,000 is available to anyone providing information leading to the successful prosecution of individuals responsible for illegal activities under the provincial Wildlife Act, or the illegal transfer of alien fish species into B.C. waters. This reward is ongoing and is supplied by the B.C. Wildlife Federation, in co-operation with the Ministry of Environment.
Northern Pike (Illegally Introduced Alien in Southern B.C.) Ian Colin James ©2006
Northern Pike (Illegally Introduced Alien in Southern B.C.)

Eurasian Water Milfoil Alert

Eurasian watermilfoil and other non-native aquatic plants can create aquatic, environmental and economic problems in our waters.


Thoroughly inspect your boat and trailer and remove all aquatic plants before launching and after leaving the water. New infestations can develop from even small plant fragments.
Further information is available by contacting:
Environmental Protection
Ministry of Environment
102 Industrial Place
Penticton, B.C.  V2A 7C8

Whirling Disease

In August 2016, Canada’s first case of whirling disease was confirmed at Johnson Lake in Banff National Park. In 2017 the Bow River, Oldman River and Red Deer River watersheds were all declared infected while the entire province of Alberta is considered a buffer zone.
Details and Symptoms
Whirling disease is caused by a microscopic parasite (Myxobolus cerebralis) that infects both fish and freshwater worms during different phases of its lifecycle. Species such as rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and whitefish are particularly susceptible to whirling disease but the severity of the disease depends on the age and size of the affected fish. The most vulnerable are juvenile fish, which could see mortality rates as high as 90 percent. There are no known health concerns for people or animals that might come in contact with the parasite by swimming or eating infected fish. Fish infected with whirling disease may exhibit a “whirling” swimming behavior as the parasite attacks cartilage and impairs the nervous system. Fish may also show signs of physical malformations including head and tail deformities and darkened coloration near the tail area. There are no treatment options.

The disease is spread by moving any of the following between waterbodies:

  • Infected live or dead finfish
  • Infected worms
  • Contaminated equipment (boats, trailers, waders, paddles, etc.)
  • Contaminated water or mud

How to help limit the spread of whirling disease:

  • "Clean, Drain and Dry"
  • When cleaning and gutting fish, dispose of all waste in municipal garbage (not in the water body)
  • Wash and disinfect waders, wading boots and any other footwear; wash your clothing and dry at high temperature
  • Do not transfer fish from one body of water to another, or use live fish as bait (illegal in B.C.)

Whirling Disease in B.C.
There are no confirmed cases of whirling disease in British Columbia to date. Due to the close proximity to infected watersheds the Province of British Columbia has introduced a new surveillance program in partnership with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. The program analyzes samples collected from waterbodies in the Kootenay Region deemed at high risk of infection, and at B.C. hatchery egg collection sites.

Report Whirling Disease

If you see fish with the symptoms above, please email biologist Stephanie Whyte at