B.C.'s first and only fish pedicure spa is being shut down by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, which claims that the therapeutic process is unsanitary.

The health authority has told Dixie Simpson that she must stop doing the fishy procedure at her Purple Orchid Spa in Duncan.

"[The authority's lawyer said] I had to shut down my spa, effective immediately, or I would be fined up to $25,000, and/or up to six months in jail, which is pretty intimidating," Simpson told CTV News.

So-called Dr. Fish spas rely on tiny fish that nibble away dead skin from customers' feet, and some practitioners claim the process treats skin diseases like eczema and promotes circulation.

Since Simpson opened her spa a year ago, she says she's had more than 700 people try the procedure popular throughout Asia and Europe.

"By the time you come out, your feet are nice and soft," she said.

New York and more than a dozen U.S. states have banned the process over concerns that the fish can transmit bacterial infections from one customer to the next.

The VIHA agrees, according to Dr. Richard Stanwick, the health authority's chief medical health officer.

"We know of at least 11 serious -- if not life-threatening -- infections that can be acquired from that type of environment. This ranges from strep, salmonella, to more exotic organisms like Nocardia and microbacteria," he said.

But Simpson says those concerns are misplaced; her tank filtration system uses ultraviolet rays to kill bacteria.

"There's never been a public outbreak of any sort," she said. "We do overkill in here to ensure the safety, and of all the people I've had come through, I have not had one repercussion."

She's started a petition to keep the fish pedicure open, but if she can't, she says she'll lose a third of her business at the spa.

"That's a huge chunk for a small business," she said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson