What Lurks in Lake Erie?

Image from benzclub.com

When it comes to invasive species and Lake Erie, zebra mussels are the least of our worries. Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes are brimming with invasive species. Everything from fish to mussels to plants have wormed their way into the native ecosystem and are thriving throughout the Great Lakes area.

All of these different creatures probably made their way to the Great Lakes through one of three different means. Most of them were likely unintentional introductions. Canals like the Erie Canal give cargo ships and other water vessels easy access to the lakes, and with them come the creatures carried in the ballast water. Ballast water helps to balance out ships. And they gain or lose cargo, the amount of ballast water held in the ship also changes. Zebra mussels, the round goby, fish hook water fleas, and the plant purple loosetrife are some of the many that were unintentionally introduced into the Lake Erie ecosystem via ballast water. Other unintentional introductions may have happened when individuals did something as seemingly innocent as release a pet back into the wild or emptied a live bait bucket into the lake.

Some creatures were intentionally introduced into the environment in the hopes of providing a good or service and economy to go with it. Such is the case with the common carp, which was introduced as a food source in the 1800’s. Its destructive habit of digging around on the lake bed kicks up mud and obstructs the light water plants need to survive.

Many precautions are being taken in order to prevent the flow of more invasive species into Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes. The discharge of ballast water is heavily regulated and sometimes even prohibited within the Great Lakes area. There are also many studies being done in order to determine how and why various invasive species became established in the Great Lakes. The hope is that by understanding how the species arrived, further introduction of other invasive species can be prevented.


  1. Tony Klich says:

    There has been a flesh eating bacteria outbreak in and around lake Erie. Fish have been washing ashore infected with the bacteria. Stay out of the water and away from dead or dying fish. My wife Gail went into the water and her foot is infected with the bacteria.

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