Earlier this week, CHS reported that the unsustainable koi of Volunteer Park’s ponds were slated to be moved out, quarantined for winter and then found new homes via the Washington Koi Association.
Wednesday morning, Gilman and his assistant started capturing the fish from the two ponds — one by one. It was a challenge. Big, strong and slippery, this generation of Volunteer Park koi are nearly 15 years old, parks employees at the scene said. The current group had been donated and acquired about four years ago following the most recent mass-poisoning in the difficult to maintain ponds.
Part of the original Olmstead design for the landmarked park, the ponds in the early days were designed for lilies, not koi. Later years brought the introduction of the big and long-living fish. It also brought many sad days for parks employees as people continued to poison and kill off fish through malfeasance and, often, love. One particularly sad story involves a big koi who died after consuming an apple fritter. Make a note: Don’t feed koi fritters.
With the removal of the koi, Seattle Parks hopes lily pads and other animals like frogs or turtles might proliferate in the water. They also plan to leave a few of the hardy, cheap and plentiful standard goldfish to take over the ponds. One employee said she expects a rogue effort or two to re-establish koi or other creatures in the ponds. She’d ask that you don’t.
We also asked Seattle Parks a few more questions about the decision to move the fish. Answers to the “rogue” question and a couple more, below.
1)The koi at the Japanese Garden are staying. How are the Volunteer Park ponds different?
The Japanese Garden pond is a much larger, more natural pond, with a recirculation pump system that keeps the pond cleaner without labor. This provides a true natural ecosystem, and since it is larger, there is more capacity and oxygen in the water. The Japanese Garden staff could not take the Volunteer Park fish as they do not want to add any more fish beyond their current capacity, and not want to introduce diseases to their pond. The Volunteer Park’s ponds are small, built systems, with nowhere near the capacity to operate as an ecosystem. The water needs to be hand drained and exchanged 4 times per week, and the ducks and other waterfowl are impossible to move to keep it cleaner.
2) Is there an annual cost of the koi maintenance you can share with us?
Not sure of all the labor costs, but staff put in a great deal of time when the fish are not dormant in keeping the water cleaned of debris, algae, and trying to keep waterfowl out of the ponds, plus constant fish monitoring and treatments for parasites. The weekly water exchanges alone result in over 4,000 gallons of water into the stormwater system at a cost of $42,000 annually.
3) How will you prevent rogue efforts to re-stock the ponds?
We know that this could happen. Unfortunately, it is very common to find abandoned pets in parks and abandoned goldfish in all of the City’s ponds, without the knowledge that this is harmful to them. We will not be managing the pond, for fish any longer, and will be putting a greater emphasis on the lily collection in the ponds. We can tolerate a small number of fish, but will monitor and remove fish as needed.