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Date: Thu, 22 Jan 1998 12:28:36 -0500
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U.S. Geological Survey
Great Lakes Science Center
1451 Lakes Science Center
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Contact: Anthony Frank, 303-994-3331 ext. 263, [log in to unmask]
Scientists Work to Restore Native Fish and Habitat to Great Lakes
Lake trout, once plentiful and highly prized by Great Lakes sport and
commercial fishers, may flourish once again in all of the Great Lakes if a
new research, restoration and management effort proves effective, according
to U.S. Department of Interior biologists and fishery experts. The Fiscal
Year 1998 Department of Interior Appropriations Bill contains $1 million
for the U.S. Geological Survey and $578,000 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service as part of a "Great Lakes Initiative."
"In the past few decades, the Great Lakes have suffered the decline and
loss of many highly valued fish species like the lake trout. The loss of
native species and the invasion of exotic species, such as the sea lamprey,
have led to unstable fish communities, a loss of sport fishing
opportunities and serious economic impacts," said Dr. Gregory Smith, Acting
Eastern Regional Chief Biologist for the USGS.
The USGS and the Fish & Wildlife Service are looking at new ways to help
restore key native fish including the lake trout, coaster brook trout and
lake sturgeon in hopes of establishing more balanced, stable and
predictable fish communities. Ultimately, improved fishing opportunities
throughout the Great Lakes are expected to result.
As part of the Great Lakes Initiative, the USGS Great Lakes Science Center
in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will conduct research to be used by natural
resource agencies to restore and manage native fish species and their
habitats in the Great Lakes. "We hope to improve our understanding of what
these native fish need to survive and thrive. We will take a closer look
at nearshore fishery habitats and examine the impact of exotic species.
This information will be useful to management agencies to direct habitat
and fish population restoration," said Dr. Smith.
The Fish & Wildlife Service will focus on selecting appropriate restoration
sites across the Great Lakes, leading efforts to rehabilitate aquatic
habitats where necessary, and locating remaining populations of native
trout and sturgeon to be used as sources of fish for restocking those
waters. The Fish & Wildlife Service and the USGS are working in
partnership with the Great Lakes States, Native American tribal governments
and the Canadian government through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.
Native lake trout that once thrived in the Great Lakes were completely
eliminated from all the lakes except in Lake Superior where they declined.
As a result of research and management activities, lake trout populations
are now reproducing in Lake Superior at a rate that sustains the population.
Following the example set through successful lake trout restoration efforts
in Lake Superior, the Fish & Wildlife Service is leading an interagency
effort to make similar progress in Lakes Michigan and Huron by stocking
eggs and small fish on reefs that are believed formerly to have been the
source of native lake trout in these waters.
Brook trout restoration activities in Lakes Superior and Huron, and lake
sturgeon restoration efforts in waters across the Great Lakes from Lake
Superior to Lake Michigan's Green Bay, Lake Erie, and the Niagara and St.
Lawrence Rivers, are also primary areas of focus for the Fish & Wildlife
The Fish & Wildlife Service's restoration activities are supported by
efforts at seven fish hatcheries, five fisheries management offices, two
fish health centers, and two sea lamprey control stations spread across the
United States from Wyoming to New York.
"Reestablishing native fish populations is a very complicated business,"
said John Christian, Assistant Regional Director for Fisheries with the
Fish & Wildlife Service in Minneapolis. "To succeed, we need a lot of
different pieces, including restored habitat, control of invading species
like the sea lamprey, and healthy fish from our hatcheries, to come
together at the right place and time."
Coastal development and pollution have threatened the ecological health of
Great Lakes wetlands and nearshore habitats. Yet, there is great potential
to protect existing habitats and restore degraded habitats during wetlands
rehabilitation and waterfront re-development activities. Once considered
dead, Lake Erie now stands as an example of the results that can be
obtained by linking scientific research with resource management. "A
better understanding of the biological processes is essential to designing
management practices for rehabilitating habitat and subsequently restoring
native species, such as the lake sturgeon," said Smith.
"The Great Lakes Initiative gives scientists and resource managers a
tremendous opportunity to focus on the whole ecosystem and restore species
that are both economically and ecologically important to the region.
Working together, we are committing limited resources to the most critical
areas," said Dr. Smith. "Hopefully, this partnership will prove successful
in the Great Lakes and provide a model for fisheries restoration and
management in other parts of the country."
"More fish and better fishing have long been objectives for our programs"
said John Christian. "The funds provided by Congress under the Great Lakes
Initiative will help move us in that direction."
As the nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian
mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000
organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific
information to resource managers, planners and other customers. This
information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the
loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to sound
economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources and
enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy and
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