According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so many of America's waterways have been distorted by unwanted aquatic invaders that they don't fit the criteria to be classified as "wild" or "scenic" anymore.
Of the nearly 10,000 non-native aquatic species living in our waters right now, some are causing severe damage to the ecosystem.
Invasive fish don't swim into new waters. Sometimes they're carried to a new area during a flood, but all too often, these foreigners end up in new habitats because humans are meddling with Mother Nature.
To you, a goldfish may appear to be nothing more than a colorful, low-maintenance pet available at your local pet store retailer.
Often, when the routine of feeding and cleaning a fish tank becomes too much of a chore, these fish are dumped down a storm drain or flushed down a toilet.
Wildlife biologists consider goldfish to be one of America's first foreign fish species.
Once they're introduced into nature, some of them are capable of quickly reproducing and wreaking havoc on the habitat other native fish call home.
The goldfish, Lionfish, Asian Carp, jellyfish and several other species are not innocent sea creatures in new waters. They're what biologists call "invasive species" because they compete for food, oxygen and spawning habitats.
With fewer natural predators to keep the invasive fish population in check, the invasive species could potentially take over any body of water within a matter of time.
"The biggest issue is once those fish are established, there's little to nothing we can do about them," says Lawrence Dorsey, a biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
If you want proof, press play on a number of fishing videos featuring the Asian Carp. You'll see where their takeover of entire rivers has turned into online entertainment, with some of the fish actually jumping out of the water and landing in a fisherman's boat!
According to some wildlife officers we interviewed, sometimes fishermen are the reason these stowaways are invading our waterways.
There have been reports of fishermen introducing a particular species of fish into a waterway so they can catch them in the future.
"Not only is it not the right thing to do for the ecosystem, it's also against the law," Dorsey points out.
Check the laws in your state before you dump bait or pets.
It may seem like releasing a fish into the wild is a humane way of disposing of them, but remember, it only takes two invasive fish to erode an entire ecosystem.
Instead, marine experts recommend you create an end-of-life action plan for your aquarium by either finding a new home for the fish or euthanizing them.
"A humane way to euthanize the fish would be to put them on ice, to freeze them, and then once they've died, just throw them away," says Peggy Sloan, Director of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
If an icy grave, however, gives you the willies, contact a local wildlife office or aquarium for assistance.
Any marine life you bought for a fish tank simply can't be terminated at your nearest storm drain or stream.
Bringing them back to nature may seem like a noble idea, but with all we now know about the impact of invasive species, they should never be introduced into non-native waters.
The following information is from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
Click here for a list of all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Offices.
The following information is from the article "Frequently Asked Question About Invasive Fish."
The following information is published on the The Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers website in an article entitled "Protect Your Waters".
Click here to read more about "User Specific Prevention Procedures: Aquarium or Pet Owners" from the website Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers.
The following information is from the USGS website:
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