Exotic animals and plants are crisscrossing the globe as never before. Many of these unwelcome species have found their way to the Chicago area and are wreaking havoc on our local ecosystem.
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NAME: Round goby (Neogobius melanostomus)
DATE INTRODUCED: 1990
HOW IT GOT HERE: Ballast water
This small bottom dweller, originally from the Black and Caspian seas, first infested the St. Clair River and then the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, says Willink, round gobies are now "quite possibly the most abundant fish in Chicago." They are extremely aggressive, with large appetites that push out other bottom feeders and nesters. "Mottled sculpins are disappearing from Lake Michigan and darters are also threatened," says Willink. Gobies are also nuisances to perch anglers because they often eat their bait. On the plus side, gobies eat zebra mussels, though not fast enough to do much good. Gobies are also a preferred food for smallmouth bass and walleye, helping these species to thrive.
THE FIGHT: Working with the Army Corps of Engineers, scientists have been testing electrical barriers to contain the spread of gobies to noninfested waters. So far, says Willink, "gobies spread so fast—nobody really knows what to do."