GRCA warns of invasive species at Elora Gorge

The Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) is warning anglers about the round goby, an invasive species spotted at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.

The fish is a small bottom dweller that eats fish eggs and competes with native species of the area.

“They are an aggressive fish. They’re referred to as a nest invader, so they will actually eat the eggs from other fish nests,” said Crystal Allan, natural heritage supervisor at the GRCA. “A round goby has the ability to reproduce several times a year… so it allows their population to expand that much more quickly.”

The fish is native to eastern Europe and popped up in the Great Lakes in the 1990s. It was spotted in the Belwood reservoir about 10 years ago, explained Allan.

She said the round goby may have been brought to Belwood as live bait and accidentally released into the water. However, this is the first time the GRCA has seen the round goby as far as the Elora Gorge.

Officials are asking anglers to know how to identify the fish, to not release them back into the water, and to report any sightings to the invasive species hotline at 1-800-563-7711.

Anglers should also be aware that possessing or using the round goby as live bait is illegal. Identified by the predominant black dot on their top fins, they have a fully scaled body and they have a fused pelvic fin, which acts like a suction cup.

“The thing with any invasive species … is they can be a threat to biodiversity in watersheds,” said Allan.

“The complex biodiversity is what makes the system adaptable and resilient so when you start to chip away at that then you don’t have that resilience or adaptability for when changes do come along.”