Who’s who in the Great Lakes?

National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Part 3: Native, non-native and invasive species are found in Michigan waters.

This poster is available at michiganseagrant.org. Photo Credit: Michigan Sea Grant

This poster is available at michiganseagrant.org. Photo Credit: Michigan Sea Grant

National Invasive Species Awareness Week is Feb. 26 to March 2, 2018. The goal is to draw attention to invasive species and what individuals can do to stop the spread and introduction of them. This effort is sponsored by a diverse set of partners from across the country. To increase awareness of Michigan’s invasive species, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are publishing a series of articles featuring resources and programs in our state working on invasive species issues.

Invasive species are plants, animals, and other organisms that are not traditionally found in a given location (in this case the Great Lakes) AND are having a negative impact of some kind, whether ecological, economic, social, and/or a public health threat

Today’s article takes a look at a few of the invasive fish species living in our Great Lakes. Michigan Sea Grant’s poster Fins, Tails and Scales – Learning about Great Lakes Fishes is a great resource for learning how to tell the difference between them.

More than 160 species

There are more than 160 species of fish that inhabit the waters of the Great Lakes region. While many look similar in shape and size, each belongs to a family that exhibits particular characteristics. These distinguishing features, combined with information on geographic range and behavior, help us observe and identify specific species. A native fish is one that traditionally belongs in the Great Lakes.

Non-native vs. invasive

A non-native fish is one that wouldn’t normally be found in Michigan or the Great Lakes, however not all non-native fish species are invasive. Chinook salmon are an example of a non-native fish introduced to the Great Lakes to enhance the state’s sports fishery and to help control the alewife population. They are not considered an invasive species.

Examples of invasive species

The Fish, Tails and Scales poster provides specific information about invasive fish species, the harm they are doing, how they likely came to be in the Great Lakes. It also has identifying characteristics and efforts to remove them or prevent them from spreading to uninfected areas. Here are just two of the invasive species that cause problems in our Great Lakes:

  • The sea lamprey, first recorded in the 1830’s in Lake Ontario, likely entered from the Erie Canal and later spread westward with the construction of the Welland Canal in the 1920s. Sea lamprey can kill up to 40 pounds of fish in their lifetime. An integrated sea lamprey control program has had great success in the Great Lakes and has reduced numbers of the spawning sea lamprey by about 90 percent. Without the control program sea lamprey would increase in numbers again in the Great Lakes. Read more about this program.
  • Round and tubenose goby originate from the Ponto-Caspian Sea region and arrived in the Great Lakes in ballast water of international cargo vessels. Both goby species can disrupt the food web by consuming insect larvae, large invertebrates, fish eggs and small fish. They are bottom-dwellers and voracious eaters that feed day and night.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides distribution maps and scientific illustrations of species from “An Atlas of Michigan Fishes with Keys and Illustrations” as an aid in identification.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Read the entire 2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week series:

Additional invasive species resources:

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