A spa on Vancouver Island has been told to stop offering a pedicure treatment that uses live fish to clean the dead skin cells of the tender tootsies of its clients.

The Purple Orchid Spa in Duncan had been offering fish pedicures since last July. Clients place their feet in a fish tank and tiny Gurra rufa fish imported from Turkey pull off the dead skin cells, according to owner Dixie Simpson.

"The water soaks off the dead skin off your feet and the little fish come along and cup it off. They don't have any teeth," said Simpson.

Simpson says she contacted Health Canada before opening last year and they gave her the go-ahead.

But now the Vancouver Island Health Authority told her to stop or risk facing thousands of dollars in fines and possibly six months in jail.

"Vancouver Island Health Authority are now classifying my fish as tools. But these are live animals. I can't sterilize them. So therefore I have to shut down," she said.

A spokesperson with VIHA has said there are concerns around fish pedicures — including bacterial infections spreading from person to person. 

Shannon Marshall says such fish spas are banned in three provinces and 14 states for good reason.

"Using the same fish to clean the skin of multiple clients could lead to the spread of infection from person to person," said Marshall.

But Simpson maintains her fish are clean because she uses a UV filtration system and she is appealing to her local MLA for help.

"It's a third of my business.... And I don't know how long I'll be able to sustain - you know - under those circumstances," said Simpson.