Proceedings of the 2004 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting


Basin Oriented Sessions: Lake Huron & Lake Erie Basins

Introduction:
The discussion was started with introductions by participants including a brief description of their affiliation and suggestions of topics to cover during this group discussion.

Participants:
Brenda Archambo, Jim Boase (facilitator), Donna Crist, Roger Greil, Charles Hendry, Rod McDonald, Tom Mosindy, Chris Vandergoot, Jerry Weise

Major Topics Covered:
- Fishing regulation issues and Native harvest
- Illegal trade of sturgeon
- Public involvement
- Cooperation between agencies
- Starting a lake sturgeon task group for both basins
- Development of a management plan.

Discussion Summary:
Fishing Regulations and Native Harvest

Questions were raised about the continued disparity of harvest regulations between Ontario and Michigan. Michigan regulations include; one sturgeon/season, between 42” and 50”, season open in the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, July 15 through September 30, anglers must posses a sturgeon tag and report when they capture a fish, no open season on the Detroit River. Ontario regulations include; one sturgeon/day, no size restriction, no closed season, open fishing in the Great Lakes and the connecting waterways, some restrictions in certain tributaries to the Great Lakes. Areas of special concern include the connecting waterways in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. The St. Clair River has two documented spawning sites while the Detroit River has one known spawning site and one newly constructed site at Belle Isle. Concerns were expressed that the management differences could hamper the success of the spawning reef at Belle Isle given that so few sturgeon have been captured in the Detroit River and most were captured in Canadian waters.

The issue was also raised that because lake sturgeon are protected under a C.I.T.E.S. agreement between the U.S. and Canada differences in fishing regulations compounds enforcement of the agreement. Ontario is working to bridge differences in regulations. The process requires changes in the law at the Parliamentary level of government and is much more involved than what is required to change fishing regulations in the states.

Questions were raised about harvest of lake sturgeon by Native communities in the U. S. and First Nations communities in Canada. The number of lake sturgeon harvested by both groups is unknown. Ontario typically has a good working relationship with its First Nation communities working cooperatively in areas of Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron. Future issues and management decisions with lake sturgeon need to incorporate the interests of tribal groups.

Illegal Trade of Lake Sturgeon, Public Involvement and Cooperation Among Agencies

Concerns were discussed about the increase in lake sturgeon poaching taking place in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. As researchers we may be inadvertently providing information to poachers when information is posted on websites or when our research makes the news. One possible solution was to get the word out to as many people as possible with the idea that the public and other fishers would be watching and notify authorities when they saw suspicious behavior. Setting up watch groups similar to those on the Fox and Wolf Rivers in Wisconsin and the Black River in Michigan may be a solution. Law agencies on both sides of the border need to be educated about the vulnerability of stocks in areas where lake sturgeon congregate.

Formation of a Lake Sturgeon Committee and Management Plan

Issue was discussed about forming a lake sturgeon task group under the Lake Huron Technical Committee to begin development of a lake sturgeon management plan for both Lakes Huron and Erie. The goal was to present the idea to the committees so that it can be discussed at the Lake Committee Meetings in spring.


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