Invasive Species and the Goby Fish Game

For Everyone, Underwater Discovery and Research

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Invasive marine species are a significant problem in North America’s Great Lakes and many other major bodies of water around the globe. In a past blog post we explored the liabilities of foreign species entering new water environments and how they disrupt existing, long established ecosystems. We focused on Zebra Mussels (an invasive species not native to the Great Lakes yet now abundantly thriving there) and explored some of the major issues created by the proliferation of non-indigenous species.

Invasive species are considered to be “plant, fungus, or animal species that are not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and which have a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health”

Gobiidae Neogobius melanostomus

Neogobius melanostomus

Today, we are going to focus on an aquatic species that has become extremely common throughout North America’s Great Lakes: The Goby fish, of which there are over 2000 different variations,originate within the phylum Gobiidae. One of the most notable features of the Goby fish is a sucker used to hold onto rocks and coral.

We have encountered this species many times while exploring shipwrecks in Lake Huron, diving in the waters of Lake Ontario, holding search and rescue demos in Lake Erie, and simply venturing through the surf on Lake Michigan. Often as we pilot a Deep Trekker ROV close to the lake bed, or are attempting to pick something up with the grabber, gobies are inevitably found swimming nearby.

While these seemingly tiny creatures may seem harmless, the Goby fish population is a major  concern within the Great Lakes. Gobies are native to rivers and estuaries of the Black and Caspian sea basins and were first identified in North America in the late 1980s. The first Goby fish was found in the St. Clair River just north of Windsor and have since spread among the other lakes.

The prime ecological liability associated with Goby fish in the Great Lakes is competition with native fish for food and habitat. This is the largest issue with advancing invasive species as they initially disturb, disrupt and may ultimately destroy established healthy ecosystems.

Gobies competing for food and habitat space have negative impact on the Great Lakes. Their migration,combined with the inadvertent introduction of other non-native species that have made their way into the Great Lakes, are of great concern from environmental and economic points of view. Zebra mussels also pose tremendous challenges among the ecological communities residing within the lakes and are viewed as much more of an issue than the Gobies. Some species of Goby fish actually feed on other invasive species, like Zebra mussels, and ironically help reduce their impact.

It can be surmised that Goby infestations apply minor pressure to other species competing for food and habitat that actually cause them to grow stronger and more abundant. At this point in time, Gobies may not be the prime invasive threat to the Great Lakes. The reality is they are very common within the Great Lakes and do not pose as many threats as other invasive critters. However without monitoring and sustained attempts at containment and elimination from the Great Lakes, every invasive species undoubtedly has a growing negative impact on these waters.

Still not sure what a Goby fish looks like? Check out some of our footage of the Gobies around these lakes. Keep in mind they can blend in with their surroundings so we made a little game to see if you can spot the Goby.


Want to learn more? Here are our sources:


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