Whistler is host to a diverse and spectacular natural environment with a variety of ecosystems, abundant natural resources, and a rich diversity of species.
The potential impacts of invasive species are of increasing concern to the resort community. The impacts of climate change are facilitating the spread of invasive species across the globe. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is working to manage these threats through an integrated and collaborative approach to invasive species management.
What are invasive species?
Invasive species are plants, animals or insects that are not native to the area and, if introduced and/or spread, can cause economic or environmental damage or harm to human health.
When invasive species are introduced to an area they do not naturally inhabit, it is generally as a result of human activities.
Invasive species do not have natural controls, such as insects, viruses or competing plants to keep them in check. As such, they can grow rapidly and spread quickly, impacting other native species and habitat around them.
Invasive species in Whistler
To date, research has identified over 150 invasive species in Whistler. Familiarize yourself with some of the priority unwanted invasive plant and animal species in Whistler, so you know what to do if you see them.
Nearly 20 per cent of plants documented so far by the Whistler Biodiversity Project are invasive.
Here’s a summary of Whistler’s five worst weeds:
Both Goldfish and Koi have been found in several Whistler waterbodies. These fish are not native to Canada, but are imported as popular pond and aquarium species. They have been illegally introduced into natural water bodies throughout B.C. when they become too large, or difficult to care for. Unfortunately, these species can survive in B.C.’s climate, have no natural predators, and reproduce rapidly making them particularly effective invaders. Further, once these species become established they can be very difficult to remove.
Impacts of Goldfish and Koi:
- They can grow very large in natural systems and compete with, or prey on, native fish and amphibian species
- They stir up sediment as they feed which makes the water cloudy which negatively impacts aquatic plants and other organisms
- They can introduce novel diseases.
It is important to note that introducing novel fish into a natural water body is illegal and can incur fines of up to $100,000.
The RMOW Environmental Protection Bylaw also enables fines for planting or failing to remove (after receiving notice) priority invasive species on private property.
Report invasive species
Report any incidents of illegal release of invasive animals to the Report all Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at:1-877-952-7277. If a goldfish is caught, do not return it to the lake and report it to the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC) at: https://ssisc.ca/report/.
The following invasive animals are of concern, but have not yet been confirmed in Whistler:
- Grey Squirrel
- American Bullfrog
- Red-Eared Slider Turtle
- Zebra and Quagga Mussels
Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council and collaborative efforts
Through our Official Community Plan, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has committed to protect local native biodiversity.
The RMOW has been working closely with the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC) since 2009 to understand and manage the risk of invasives in Whistler. The RMOW and SSISC work together to educate our staff, landowners and the general public to help limit the spread of key invasive species in Whistler.
The RMOW is working with SSISC to closely monitor high priority species, particularly those in the Prevent and Eradicate management categories, and to eradicate Japanese Knotweed and Yellow Flag Iris from all sites in Whistler. The RMOW is implementing a strategic approach towards eradicating or controlling key invasive species on municipal lands, with a focus on environmentally sensitive areas and areas with high vector potential. The 2018 Annual Report will provide an update on the current status within the community.
Policy and planning
- Our Invasive Species Management Plan guides an integrated, collaborative approach to minimizing the risks of invasive species to the community.
- The Environmental Protection Bylaw prohibits the planting of invasive species in Whistler. It also allows the municipality to provide enforceable notice to remove invasive plant species from private land.
- The Solid Waste Bylaw provides guidelines for the disposal of garbage and other waste, including invasive plant species.
How can you help?
Residents and visitors have an important role to play in stopping the spread of invasive species. Here are a few simple things you can do:
- Learn about Whistler’s 5 Worst Weeds.
- Report all invasive species sightings. Email SSISC at firstname.lastname@example.org or download a free app to identify and report invasive species anywhere in British Columbia.
- Remove invasive species from your property and dispose of them properly. For residents, this means bagging them and disposing of them at the Nesters or Function Junction waste depots. For landscapers, this means bagging them and disposing of them separately from other yard waste at the Waste Transfer Station.
- Clean and thoroughly dry equipment, boats, tools and footwear before moving from one water body to the next.
- Never dump aquariums, or aquarium water into natural water bodies as this can introduce exotic plants or disease.
- Never release live or dead pets, or other domestic animals, into the natural environment.
- Do not transport live or dead animals, or insects, from one environment to another. This can contribute to the spread of invasive species.
Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC)
Knotweed: Identification and removal help video
Invasive plant disposal protocol