Home Environment Invasive fish species poses threat to Hudson River ecosystem

Invasive fish species poses threat to Hudson River ecosystem

A tiny fish recently spotted near Poughkeepsie is creating big problems, with state officials worried that it would disrupt the Hudson River ecosystem.

According to a report in the environmental news source The River, the round goby measures a maximum of 10 inches and has the ability to thrive in different aquatic conditions. It is also a prolific breeder, which creates a problem for New York because it is an invasive species – the round goby is native to the Black and Caspian Seas and was accidentally introduced to New York’s waterways in the late 1990s, where it has already displaced local fish species and disrupted the food chain.

The round goby was first spotted in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and has traveled along the Erie Canal to reach the Hudson River. The sighting in Poughkeepsie has raised alarms that it will damage the Hudson River ecosystems.

“The goby is a voracious eater,” said Dan Shapley, co-director of the Science and Patrol Program at Riverkeeper. “It loves to eat eggs, so it’s going to consume the eggs of many of our native species. Many of our native species are already in decline, at risk, or barely showing signs of recovery from historic overfishing, habitat loss, or pollution.”

And it is not just the native fish that are in danger. The round gobies consume zebra mussels, another invasive species in the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, but this cause toxins found in mussels to permeate the food chain. Ecologists reported that thousands of waterbirds in the Great Lakes that consumed gobies died from ingesting botulism toxin – a situation that could be repeated in the Hudson Valley region where a large population of zebra mussels exists.

There is also the concern that the round gobies could disrupt the efforts being made to increase the Atlantic sturgeon presence in the Hudson River after years of overfishing that nearly eradicated the species. While Great Lake sturgeons feed on the round gobies, there is a fear that the invasive species will eat the Atlantic sturgeon’s eggs and reverse the progress made in reintroducing that fish to the river.

The round goby is also creating agitation upstate, where there is concern it could find its way into Lake Champlain.

“We really mobilized knowing that it was discovered in the Hudson,” said Peg Olsen, the Adirondack director of the Nature Conservancy in New York. “Then the canal was closed for the winter. Knowing that it’s going to reopen May 20, we really felt there was this small window of time to mobilize and make the case again to DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation], the Canal Corporation, and the governor, to close just one of those locks to prevent the goby from getting into Lake Champlain.”

Photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons

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Phil Hall's writing for Westfair Communications has earned multiple awards from the Connecticut Press Club and the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists. He is a former United Nations-based reporter for Fairchild Broadcast News and the author of 11 books (including the upcoming "100 Years of Wall Street Crooks," published by Bicep Books). He is also the host of the SoundCloud podcast "The Online Movie Show," host of the WAPJ-FM talk show "Nutmeg Chatter" and a writer with credits in The New York Times, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, Wired, The Hill's Congress Blog, Profit Confidential, The MReport and StockNews.com. Outside of journalism, he is also a horror movie actor - usually playing the creepy villain who gets badly killed at the end of each film.

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