Friday, November 9, 2012

Deepwater Ciscoes to be Re-Introduced Into Lake Ontario

Nov 9: The "bloater" fish, a deepwater cisco, was re-introduced into Lake Ontario offshore of Oswego, bringing the fish back to the lake for the first time in nearly thirty years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and partner agencies announced today. This historic action is the first of its kind in the Great Lakes and is the culmination of several years of collaborative laboratory, hatchery and field research conducted by federal, state, and provincial agencies. The last known fish was collected in 1983.
    DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said, "Lake Ontario's sport fisheries are a significant economic driver in New York State, and were valued at more than $113 million in 2007. Re-establishing bloaters in Lake Ontario will diversify the fish community, adding stability to the lake's ecosystem and sport fisheries." According to a release from DEC, re-establishing self-sustaining populations of bloater in Lake Ontario is the focus of a cooperative, international effort between DEC, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to restore native fish populations in Lake Ontario.  This program will improve food web stability and mitigate negative impacts of invasive species; however, it will require a long-term stocking program. 
    Russ Strach, Director of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center, said, "The capital investment in the new research vessel demonstrates USGS' commitment to cutting-edge deepwater science in Lake Ontario.  The new vessel greatly enhances our ability to conduct ecosystem-based fishery research to address management questions important to our partner agencies.  I'm proud to see the platform used by the partnership working to restore this important native species."
    Deepwater ciscoes, a diverse group of species including bloater, kiyi, blackfin cisco, and shortnose cisco, were once the most abundant prey fish in the lake and supported important commercial fisheries.  Members of the whitefish family, bloaters feed primarily on invertebrates in water depths from 180 feet to 650 feet, spawning in winter at great depth, and were an important food source for native lake trout and burbot. 
    By the mid-20th century, populations declined dramatically in association with over-harvest and expanding populations of invasive alewife and rainbow smelt. Re-introducing bloaters will provide more food choices for predators, such as lake trout and salmon, and diversify the Lake Ontario fish community.  Lake trout and salmon that feed primarily on alewife can experience reproductive failure due to a vitamin B deficiency.  Predators that feed on native species like bloater are less likely to experience reproductive failure.
    Access the release from NY DEC (click here).
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