Preliminary Proceedings of the 2008 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting


Abstracts - Oral Presentations

Michigan’s St. Clair System Sturgeon Fishery: Results of an Angler Postal Survey - view presentation (2.14 MB pdf)

Gary Towns, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lake Erie Management Unit, Southfield, MI and Mike Thomas, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station, Harrison Township, MI

In 1999, based on the recommendations of the Michigan Lake Sturgeon Rehabilitation Strategy, conservative fishing regulations were implemented for Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. Since then, management of this fishery has been problematic since little data has been collected regarding the extent of the fishery. Michigan lake sturgeon anglers are required to register for a sturgeon harvest tag in order to fish for sturgeon. This provided the opportunity to evaluate the fishery by surveying anglers who were specifically interested in sturgeon fishing with a questionnaire sent through the US Postal Service. The objectives of the survey were to: 1) quantify the fishing effort, catch, and harvest during 2006 and 2007; and 2) characterize the demographics of the participating anglers during the same time period; and finally 3) quantify angler opinions regarding sturgeon harvest and the fishing regulations for the St. Clair System sturgeon fishery. Questionnaires were sent to 458 anglers. Non-respondents were mailed up to two follow-up letters, and eventually 300 anglers returned completed questionnaires. Sturgeon anglers were found to be predominantly male (90%) with an average age of 40.7 years. They reported catching 683 sturgeon in 2006 and 573 in 2007. The average catch per angler was 4.4 and 3.1 in 2006 and 2007, resp. Anglers reported 979 fishing trips for sturgeon in 2007. Sturgeon anglers reported harvesting 10 fish in 2006 and 4 in 2007. Some problems with registering harvested sturgeon were identified, but the authors still believe total harvest was well below of 3% of the population – the harvest level identified as the limit for a growing population. The results of this postal survey indicated that fishing for sturgeon in the St. Clair System has evolved into a primarily catch-and-release fishery. Furthermore, results indicate this fishery and associated conservative regulations have provided anglers with a unique fishing opportunity, while protecting and conserving a unique fishery resource.

 

The role that lake sturgeon play in First Nation communities across Northern Ontario; with a case study on the Namaygoosisagagun First Nation lake sturgeon project completed on the remote system of Smoothrock Lake.- view presentation (2.53 MB pdf)

Kimberley Tremblay, Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, North Bay, ON

Through time immemorial the lake sturgeon has held an important role in First Nation communities. Lake sturgeons are important spiritually and possess a mystical power in the stories that are shared from generation to generation. The role that lake sturgeon play in these communities has however evolved over time; shifting from being an important part of their diet; to a resource that was traded as a commodity for economic gain; to a time where the lake sturgeon has become less important in present day society.

The Anishinabek Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (A/OFRC) has worked with a variety of First Nation communities (Nipissing First Nation, Mississagi First Nation, Pic River First Nation, Namaygoosisagagun First Nation) that all have a different relationship with lake sturgeon. For example, lake sturgeon have played an important role in the Namaygoosisagagun First Nation community, providing a reliable food source every spring through subsistence fishing. This however is changing with younger generations not wanting to pick up this harvesting tradition. The Anishinabek Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre (A/OFRC) along with the Namaygoosisagagun First Nation has done three consecutive years of spawning surveys. The use of traditional ecological knowledge from elders of Namaygoosisagagun First Nation was essential in the commencement of this project. The opinion of these individuals will be important when delivering the results to the community. Since this lake is remote, it has not had the development of dams and the creation of commercial fisheries. Consequently, the lake sturgeon population has been only minimally affected and provides an interesting comparison with other more negatively affected populations. Preliminary genetic work has shown that Smoothrock Lake, lake sturgeon population originated from the Great Lakes gene pool.

 

Current development of the Lake Ontario Sturgeon Management Plan- view presentation (720 KB pdf)

Alastair Mathers, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Lake Ontario Management Unit, Picton ON

The Lake Ontario Committee of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission is developing a sturgeon management plan for the ‘Lake Ontario system’. This talk will describe the need for a plan, its outline and describe some of the more contentious issues including: the geographic scope of the plan, development of spawning population-level goals, stocking and genetics, contaminants and fish diseases. The process for completion of the plan will also be discussed.

 

Development of a Tribal Stewardship Plan for Sturgeon- view presentation (1.94 MB pdf)

Marty Holtgren, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Manistee, MI

In 2002, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians implemented a strategy to manage the Big Manistee River sturgeon population through the use of a stewardship plan. The Tribally authorized plan, “Nmé Stewardship Plan for the Manistee River and 1836 Reservation” used both cultural and biological criteria for establishing goals for restoration. A cultural context group consisting of Tribal members and Tribal government staff was formed to develop the plan. A primary goal of the plan was to restore the harmony and connectivity between Nmé and the Anishinaabe and bring them both back to the river. The plan advocated for research and restoration activities of Nmé. After three years of research that defined the biological attributes of the Manistee population we implemented strategies for restoration. The first was a large-scale effort of improving habitat for sturgeon within the watershed, specifically minimizing the input of sand into the river. Secondly, the first portable streamside rearing facility for sturgeon was designed and operated for lake sturgeon. This presentation will detail the development of the Little River Band stewardship plan and the implementation of strategies for sturgeon restoration.

 

Management lessons from ocean fisheries, can they benefit lake sturgeon and other Great Lakes species? - view presentation (785 KB pdf)

Nancy A. Auer, Michigan Technological University, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Houghton, MI

For many years fishery management in the Great Lakes has dealt with management plans targeting individual species and most, if not all plans, have focused on eventual harvest goals. Most plans throughout the Great Lakes share these two goals – eventual harvest and uniform management across the range of the fish. However in Ocean systems managers are developing strategies that encompass more ecosystem-community management and they are establishing reserves and no fishing zones to protect fishes which use defined habitats and movement patterns. This talk addresses the possible implications of adapting new management categories and strategies to Great Lakes Fishery management, especially in regard to lake sturgeon and other recovering Great Lake fish species.

 

Management Goals and Objectives for Lake Sturgeon - view presentation (264 KB pdf)

Lloyd Mohr, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Branch, Owen Sound, ON

This presentation attempts to describe the basic structure of a management plan and gives examples of existing goals and objectives from management plans in the Great Lakes. It is intended to provoke discussion and thought around what is needed in a management plan, how the parts are integrated, and what types of questions planners should be asking themselves as these management plans are developed.

 

Lake Sturgeon Relocation at Adam Creek. Is this a sustainable management practice?- view presentation (3.17 MB pdf)

Dave Barbour, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Kapuskasing Area Office, Kapuskasing, ON

The Moose River Basin in northeastern Ontario has a relatively abundant lake sturgeon population with some exceptions. The Little Long Generating Station Reservoir on the Mattagami River supports one of the most abundant known sturgeon populations in northeastern Ontario. A recent 2002 census estimated there were approximately 12,400 adult lake sturgeon in the Little Long head pond. Three large rivers; the Mattagami, Groundhog and Kapuskasing rivers contribute their waters to this large 7200 hectare reservoir. The Little Long Generating Station is the first of four hydroelectric dams in a cascading series of four facilities comprising the Mattagami Complex. The total capacity of all facilities is 480MW. The Adam Creek Diversion re-directs flows in excess of plant operating capacity around the four hydro plants along a 37 km route before being re-connected with the Mattagami River downstream of the complex. The average spring flow in the diversion channel is about 1250cms with a maximum potential of 4870cms.

Since 1963, the seasonal operation of Adam Creek diversion and the LLGS spillway have entrained fish after cessation of the spring freshet. In 1990 this issue was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Natural Resources and in that year 970 lake sturgeon were relocated back into the Little Long Generating Station head pond. Ontario Hydro now Ontario Power Generation has researched physical barrier and behavioural fish protection technologies and concluded there were no technical or economically feasible alternatives to the annual relocation program. A relocation program developed in consensus with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the MNR has relocated 4300 sturgeon since 1990 back into the LLGS headpond. Mortality associated with the spill events is unknown. Impacts of injury and or stress to the reproductive capacity of the once entrained and relocated fish are also unknown.

 

Montcalm Mine Initiatives to Protect Groundhog River Lake Sturgeon.

Laurent Robichaud and Pamela Reid, Montcalm Environmental Liaison Group, Xstrata Nickel Montcalm Mine, Timmins, ON

The Groundhog River in Northern Ontario still holds its status of one of a few North American rivers to have a reasonably healthy lake sturgeon population. We will go over a brief history of the start up of Montcalm Mine, public concern over the discharge of water into the Groundhog River, the initiatives the mine took to help protect and monitor the lake sturgeon and the success these initiatives have had.

 

Evaluating collection, rearing, and stocking methods for lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) restoration programs in the Great Lakes- view presentation (1.50 MB pdf)

James Crossman1,2, Christine Davis1, Patrick Forsythe3, Kim Scribner1,3, Edward Baker4

1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824
2BC Hydro, 601 - 18th Street, Castlegar, BC V1N 2N1
3Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824
4Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 484 Cherry Creek Rd., Marquette, MI, 49855

Stocking hatchery produced lake sturgeon has been advocated as an important management and conservation strategy throughout the Great Lakes. However, prescriptions for hatchery propagation and stocking programs have been offered largely in the absence of data comparing alternative methods. We empirically determined the effects of different gamete/larval collection methods, rearing environments, and age-at-stocking on juvenile lake sturgeon growth, survival, and levels of genetic diversity. Furthermore, we examined how hatchery rearing environment and age at stocking affect survival and movements following release at 8, 13, and 17 weeks of age. Lake sturgeon were produced from direct gamete takes from spawning adults, collections of naturally produced eggs from the stream substrate, and collections of larvae dispersing downstream from spawning habitats. Offspring were reared in a streamside hatchery on the natal Black River and in a traditional hatchery. Dispersing larvae represented the highest amount of genetic diversity present in the adult breeding population. Survival and genetic diversity of offspring were significantly higher for streamside reared individuals compared to offspring reared in the traditional hatchery environment. Significantly higher recapture rates were realized for progeny reared in the streamside hatchery compared to the traditional hatchery at 8 and 13 weeks of age. Fish size was correlated with timing of movements post-stocking across all ages. Collectively, our data provide a framework for evaluating alternative strategies for managers designing conservation programs for lake sturgeon. Results indicate that supplementation protocols for lake sturgeon should be developed on a site-specific basis and demonstrate the importance of hatchery rearing environment.

 

Limiting Fishing Mortality, a Rehabilitation Tool- view presentation (862 KB pdf)

Lloyd Mohr, Great Lakes Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Owen Sound, ON

Fisheries resource managers have a number of tools that they can use. Controlling exploitation, fisheries mortality, is one of the most commonly used tools. There are pros and cons to using this tool and these will be discussed. A recent example of the use of controlling fishing mortality will be given from the province of Ontario.

 

Support for a Basinwide Juvenile Index Survey- view presentation (157 KB pdf)

Henry Quinlan, Ashland National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ashland, WI

Development of a standardized index survey to assess the relative abundance of juvenile lake sturgeon and population biological characteristics could provide comparable data for synthesis, management, and evaluation of rehabilitation efforts. We implemented a survey approach based on the Fall Walleye Index Netting (FWIN) method used in Ontario, Canada, for Lake Superior waters. Using a standardized survey across the Great Lakes, comparable estimates for analysis of trends over time in a location as well as comparisons between different waterbodies and waterbody types can be obtained.

 

Advances on lake sturgeon recovery potential in Canadian designatable units: from allowable harm to recovery targets

Luis A. Vélez-Espino view presentation (397 KB pdf) & Marten A. Koops view presentation (860 KB pdf) - Great lakes Laboratory for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Burlington, ON

Significant declines in the abundance of lake sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens across most of its North American range has led to abundances less than 10% of estimated minimum sustainable population sizes and, in some locations, less than 1% of historic abundances. These precipitous declines in abundance have resulted in most lake sturgeon populations being considered a conservation concern and management actions toward recovery. Here we present modelling in support of a recovery potential assessment, using stage-structured matrix models and population viability analysis, to quantitatively assess allowable harm, to determine population-based recovery targets, recovery efforts, probabilities of recovery, recovery timeframes, and to estimate required habitat for viable populations in lotic environments. From this assessment we conclude that lake sturgeon populations are most sensitive to harm on adult survival and that some designatable units are highly sensitive to any level of harm. However, the scope for recovering lake sturgeon by improving adult survival is limited; instead, larger proportional increases in population growth rates can be achieved by focusing recovery efforts on age-0 and juvenile survival. Our analyses indicate that the number of annually spawning females in discrete populations, representative of designatable units, should be between 264 and 586 for a 99% probability of persistence over 250 years or 1 188 for a 99% probability of persistence over 40 generations. The required habitat to harbour all life stages in viable populations ranges from 974 to 1 886 hectares when using the 250-year criterion. Age-0 individuals would require on average 2.3% of the total area of required habitat, juveniles 45.3%, and adults 52.3%. Required habitat for lake sturgeon populations in lentic environments is expected to be approximately twice as large as in lotic environments.

 

In Situ Assessment of Lampricide Toxicity to Age-0 Lake Sturgeon- view presentation (1.07 MB pdf)

Lisa O’Connor, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Larval sea lampreys are controlled in streams by a chemical larvicide 3-triflouromethyl-4-nitrophenol (TFM). Laboratory and field exposure tests on caged sturgeon have demonstrated that TFM can also be toxic to age-0 lake sturgeon (<123 mm). In 2008, we collected age-0 lake sturgeon from the Mississagi and Au Sauble Rivers (tributaries to Lake Huron) and, supplementing with hatchery reared individuals, used radio telemetry and caged animals to compare the survival of age-0 lake sturgeon to two TFM treatment regimes: a) Sturgeon Protocol, 1.2 x MLC, a TFM treatment regime that is designed to have reduced toxicity to age-0 lake sturgeon, and b) Full Treatment Protocol, 1.4 x MLC the standard TFM treatment for larval sea lampreys. The treatments, on sections of the Mississagi River, were paired with the Au Sauble River, our control stream. A total of 30 radio tagged age-0 lake sturgeon, 10 in both treatments and 10 in the control, were released and 202 hatchery reared age-0 lake sturgeon, 75 in 15 cages for each lampricide application and 52 in 10 cages for the control, were distributed throughout the systems. Radio tagged fish ranged in size from 130 – 182 mm (total length), while caged sturgeon ranged from 57 – 101 mm (total length). Survival rates were the same for all three treatments, with an average of 93% for the caged fish and 99% for the radio telemetry fish. Overall, survival of age-0 hatchery <123 mm and age-0 native lake sturgeon was high for both the Sturgeon and Full Protocol TFM treatment for larval sea lampreys.

 

Assessment of a restoration stocking program on Oneida Lake- view presentation (3.10 MB pdf)

James R. Jackson, Thomas E. Brooking, and Anthony J. VanDeValk, Cornell Biological Field Station, Bridgeport, NY

As part of a lake sturgeon restoration program conducted by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in the Lake Ontario watershed, nearly 8,000 fingerling lake sturgeon have been stocked into Oneida Lake since 1995. A monitoring program conducted by the Cornell Biological Field Station has indicated that sturgeon stocked into Oneida Lake have exhibited extremely high growth rates, with the largest fish captured so far weighing in at over 32 kg in spring 2008. Diet assessments show that amphipods and snails are the most common food items of smaller juvenile sturgeon, with zebra mussels becoming the dominant diet item as sturgeon grow above 700 mm. Habitat selection, based on gill net catches, show higher use of firm substrates where zebra mussels have colonized the lake. Mark-recapture data from standardized gill net sampling during the 2002-2004 growing seasons were collected from sturgeon from the 1995 stocking cohort (initial stocking 5000 fish). While sample sizes were low and confidence intervals large, data suggest that as many as 40% of fish stocked in 1995 were present in the lake in 2002. Ratios of captures of sturgeon cohorts in gill net samples suggest that survival is similar among all stocked year classes. Planning is ongoing for initiation of a large-scale lake sturgeon assessment in Oneida Lake and the Oswego River watershed through the State Wildlife Grants Program. Study objectives include telemetry of 100 fish in Oneida Lake to determine more detailed habitat use patterns and attempt to identify potential spawning sites in upstream tributaries.

 

Conservation Strategies of Acipenseridae Species in the People’s Republic of China- view presentation (1.28 MB pdf)

Doug Aloisi, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Genoa National Fish Hatchery, Genoa, WI

The People’s Republic of China is experiencing unprecedented pressures to native flora and fauna due to human influenced perturbations to aquatic systems. These human induced changes include the construction of the largest hydropower facility and dam in the world, the Three Gorges Dam. A recent trip to the Yangtze River in China and its existing sturgeon and paddlefish conservation sites and ongoing Chinese conservation efforts will be


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