Gobies Have Officially Invaded the Hudson River. That’s Bad News for Striped Bass

Great Lakes fishermen consider “goby” a hateful four-letter word. The little 4-to 10-inch bug-eyed fish is native to the Black and Caspian seas and invasive here in the U.S., where it spreads like wildfire in a high wind.

First spotted in 1990, the round goby exploded throughout the Great Lakes. In 2014, the little fish reached the Erie Canal. Now this pesky species has entered the Hudson River in New York and spread as far south as Poughkeepsie. State fisheries officials, scientists, conservationists, and anglers are ringing the alarm. The diminutive fish might appear harmless enough, except the bottom-feeder ravages the eggs of native sportfish species such as walleye and smallmouth bass. Moreover, gobies thrive in poor water quality, and are capable of surviving poor conditions much better than many native American species. Gobies also threaten the Hudson River’s much-loved striped bass.

“There’s no block on its spread,” Hudson riverkeeper Dan Shapley told the Albany Times-Union. “It will also spread into the tributaries of the river as far as it can. There’s no reason that I know of not to expect that it will spread throughout the river and may have already spread further south than Poughkeepsie … As people right now are going out and fishing for striped bass, we really want to get their attention.”

The Times-Union reports that gobies can impact stripers because the invasive species eats eggs of baitfish that stripers consume, which can lead to a striper decline and impact the entire river ecosystem.

According to the Times-Union, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation is working on a plan that they’ll hopefully complete by May, which will outline its plan of attack. The DEC wants to prevent gobies from reaching Lake Champlain. Shapley already is concerned about other invasive species entering the Hudson. He wants to use the goby as a teaching model to thwart the spread of other species he says are sure to come.

“The really important lesson we want to learn from this is that it’s not just stopping the goby from further spread, it’s stopping the next invasion of the next fish or aquatic species through the Erie Canal, because that is our greatest vulnerability.”

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