Monitoring Shows Invasive Round Goby is No Closer to Lake Champlain

Grand Isle, VT – Scientists have determined that the round goby is still present at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers in New York, but monitoring results suggest that the invasive fish has not made it any closer to Lake Champlain, a critical concern for scientists and lake managers.

Round goby are aggressive egg and fry predators, displace bottom dwelling fish, and can carry diseases lethal to freshwater fish, such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS). They are native to Eurasia but were introduced to the Great Lakes in North America in the early 1990s. 

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are conducting early monitoring this year after the fish was found last summer at the Hudson and Mohawk confluence. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) analyzed water samples collected on April 14 for DNA that would indicate the presence of the goby.

The Champlain Canal is of particular concern because it connects the Hudson River to Lake Champlain. It serves as the greatest threat of introduction of round goby and other invasive species who pass through it to Lake Champlain. But gobies may also be introduced by anglers who capture them for bait and release them, and early life stages may hitchhike on boats.

Round goby DNA was not detected at six additional monitoring sites in the Hudson River upstream of the confluence area, through Lock 7 in Fort Edward, NY. This monitoring effort suggests that round goby have not advanced closer to Lake Champlain.

Scientists are confident that the sampling effort is accurate, but they note that one round of sampling is not conclusive and continued monitoring is critical. More sampling is planned in June, August, and October.

Regulations prohibit the use of invasive species like round goby as live bait. Anglers are encouraged to become familiar with rules in New York, Vermont, and Quebec.

“Our initial round of sampling did not detect round goby DNA upstream of where the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers merge,” said Scott George, a research biologist with the USGS New York Water Science Center. “However, we will be conducting additional eDNA sampling, trawling, and electrofishing surveys so that we can provide the most accurate information to our partners working to contain the spread of this invasive fish.” The USGS data release is available at this link.

“eDNA detects the presence of DNA in the water system, and it is important to note that that the DNA, in this case from round goby, can be derived from a variety of sources, including both live and dead individuals,” said Dr. Meredith Bartron, regional geneticist with the USFWS Northeast Fisheries Science Center. “Future sampling will be useful to understand more about how round goby are distributed in the Hudson River.”

“Science-based decision making is critical to ensure New York’s response efforts to this invasive threat are guided by data and we appreciate the Lake Champlain Basin Program and the U.S. Geological Survey for advancing this survey of eDNA in the Champlain Canal System,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “While the data is encouraging, New York State is full steam ahead identifying comprehensive solutions to mitigate the spread of the invasive round goby fish in the Champlain Canal system, and this data will further guide the development of an invasive species rapid response plan for Lake Champlain and public education efforts to ensure all residents and visitors are acting to prevent the spread of invasive species.”

The Lake Champlain Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force, a group of experts from the states of New York and Vermont and the province of Quebec, has been working closely with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation on an integrated management response to the threat of the species introduction to Lake Champlain.

“These results are good news, but the absence of evidence in a single round of sampling does not mean the species has not spread upriver,” said Meg Modley, AIS Management Coordinator of the Lake Champlain Basin Program. “Collaborative work remains critical to help prevent further spread of round goby by sharing information about identification, reporting, and the emphasizing the importance of preventing bait bucket introductions of any fish to new waterbodies.”

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Strattonsaid, “The initial data collected by the US Geological Survey and Lake Champlain Basin Program is encouraging news and the Canal Corporation supports additional monitoring in the Champlain Canal to ensure our risk reduction strategies are informed by data, so that the best mitigation practices may be implemented to protect Lake Champlain from the round goby. We encourage stakeholders to engage with us on this important issue and learn how they can assist in mitigating the spread of aquatic invasives species to ensure the Canal’s resiliency for generations to come.”

For additional information about round goby, including species identification, reporting, and best management practices, please visit this link.

This USGS and USFWS monitoring effort is supported by the Lake Champlain Basin Program and NEIWPCC with funds secured by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

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