By Adrian Humphreys
Chris Firth-Eagland, head of the Hamilton Conservation Authority, was alone on a midnight walk near an inauspicious pond in a protected oasis when he stumbled upon a group of men with spotlights, fishing nets and enormous plastic bags, caught in the act of harvesting carp from the water.
It was, he realized instantly, the solution to a distressing mystery: how the sensitive, protected, public pond and another one nearby – two of the few remaining homes for an endangered species of salamander – had become so infested with invasive carp that the rare amphibians had all but disappeared, especially since the pond had no connection to any stream.
To Mr. Firth-Eagland, it was now clear: someone was stocking the pond as a black market breeding pool in a commercial fishing operation, with the koi carp likely being sold either as ornamental fish stock or as food to restaurants.
Outraged, he confronted the men, chasing them off into the night with his walking stick.
Discovering the source of the conservation disaster was the easy part. Trying to bring the Jefferson salamanders back to two of its few remaining homes required more ingenuity. It led the conservation authority to break its own rules; it poisoned both ponds.
“We had to poison the fish to protect the ecological integrity of the pond, if we hadn’t already lost it,” said Mr. Firth-Eagland, the chief administrative officer of the conservation authority. More....