Buddhist ‘life release’ ritual complicates California’s ecology

SF Gate –

Nine live tilapia whose fate would have probably led them to a dinner plate were released into the East Bay’s Lake Chabot in November by a woman who was motivated by her Buddhist faith to save the fish.

The act of compassion, known as life release, can be a misdemeanor in California because of the potential environmental impact and can be met with a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. While it is known to occur in the Bay Area with at least one permitted ceremony annually, state and region wildlife officials do not believe it to be widespread.

“We’ve found evidence of (life release) happening at other lakes — candles and flowers left on the shore,” says Joe Sullivan, fisheries program manager for the East Bay Regional Park District. “We know it happens. We just don’t have a good grasp on how common it is.”

East Bay Regional Park District police contacted the local woman on Nov. 26, but she was not arrested, and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has not charged her with committing a crime.

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