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U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
GREAT LAKES BASIN ECOSYSTEM TEAM
LAKE STURGEON COMMITTEE

List of Research and Management Needs
November 1, 2000

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is implementing an ecosystem approach to address its federal responsibilities.  Service staff working within the Great Lakes drainage basin have been organized into the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem Team (Ecoteam) in order to address Great Lakes issues.  The Ecoteam is identifying federal concerns and working with State and Native American tribal resource managers to identify resource goals, objectives and action strategies.  The Ecoteam has identified three broad, basin-wide issues on which to focus its efforts.  One of these basin-wide issues included lake sturgeon restoration and passage.  Lake sturgeon restoration was selected because it could benefit from the combined efforts of Ecoteam members.  As a result of the Ecoteam's lake sturgeon priority issue for the basin, a Lake Sturgeon Committee was established to identify and address action items.  One action item of the Committee was to develop a list of research and management needs to guide the Service's lake sturgeon restoration activities in the Great Lakes Basin.  The Service will work with state, provincial, tribal, and federal agencies to develop research programs that address the needs. 

 

Overall Needs

      Identify streams with present populations of lake sturgeon.

      Protect present populations of lake sturgeon.

      Assess and enhance habitat, including fishways, in designated lake sturgeon streams.

      Develop appropriate stocking strategies to rehabilitate extirpated lake sturgeon populations in historically significant streams.

      Develop a basin-wide lake sturgeon recovery/enhancement plan.

 

STATUS

1.      Assess historic and current lake sturgeon producing streams and identify impediments/barriers, which may have caused a reduction in the number or area of these waters available to lake sturgeon.

2.      Develop and conduct status surveys of remnant lake sturgeon populations in and adjacent to historic spawning streams to estimate the abundance and recruitment potential of all remnant, free-ranging Great Lakes stocks.

 

HABITAT

1.      Determine the time periods and movement patterns of adult and juvenile lake sturgeon relative to utilization of spawning tributaries and nearshore waters so to identify and characterize remaining critical habitat for all life stages in the Great Lakes Basin. Begin the process of mapping known spawning, nursery and feeding microhabitats to enhance efforts for protection and restoration.

2.      Conduct research to determine if and at what life stage lake sturgeon imprint to the tributaries, and determine if spawning occurs in lake environments.

3.  Determine the minimum flow requirements in lake sturgeon streams; the impacts of low water levels that de-water potential spawning or larval habitat; the effects of water level fluctuations on lake sturgeon spawning success and egg and fry survival; and the effects on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates.  

 

PASSAGE

1.      Develop techniques for passage of lake sturgeon on streams which historically supported spawning populations but are now blocked by hydro-projects, and for streams where spawning habitat is limited due to hydro-projects. The techniques selected for passage of lake sturgeon also will block sea lamprey.

2.      Develop methods to pass sturgeon around low-head dams and also block sea lamprey.

3.      Determine entrainment effects during downstream passage.

4.      On tributaries where barrier passage is possible, identify the potential for lake sturgeon exposure to, accumulation of, or transport of toxic chemicals above the barriers.

 

TRENDS

1.      Quantify lake sturgeon mortality associated with inter-specific predation on eggs and drifting larvae on and near the spawning sites.

2.      Evaluate the impact of bio-accumulation of toxic substances on growth, reproduction, survival, and body burden and possible impact on human consumption.

3.      Evaluate diet of lake sturgeon and possible overlap and competitions with other species currently abundant in the Great Lakes (e.g. white sucker, longnose sucker).

 

GENETICS

Incorporation of artificial propagation in lake sturgeon recovery efforts will require healthy and genetically appropriate donor stocks to provide the necessary gametes for culture purposes.

1.      Continue genetic research to identify markers and analytical techniques useful and most effective for population differentiation to assist in development of recovery efforts.

2.      Perform stock structure analysis to determine the extent of differentiation among Great Lakes spawning populations.

3.      Determine the genetic variability among spawning populations to identify the most suitable stocking sources and effective mating/breeding schemes.

4.      Research techniques for genetically tagging and identifying individuals.

 

MANAGEMENT

1.      Develop a Great Lakes Basin Lake Sturgeon Recovery/Enhancement Plan to coordinate and direct efforts to protect, restore, enhance, and manage lake sturgeon.

2.      Evaluate feasibility and appropriateness of stocking lake sturgeon, including impact on remnant stocks and optimum stocking sizes and rates.

3.      Identify, disseminate, and expand hatchery breeding and rearing techniques to maximize survival of quality hatchery products, minimize costs, and standardize efforts throughout the basin.

4.      Determine an acceptable amount of lake sturgeon harvest and work toward establishment of a basin-wide regulation to sustain healthy populations.

5.      Develop public outreach and participation programs to obtain citizen interest and involvement in lake sturgeon recovery/management efforts.

 

LAW ENFORCEMENT

1.      Quantify mortality of adult and sub-adult lake sturgeon due to illegal harvest, and initiate law enforcement actions to eliminate it.

2.      Conduct investigations to determine what impact illegal activity such as poaching, pollution, habitat degradation, etc., can have on the sturgeon population.

 

SEA LAMPREY CONTROL

1.      Address constraints on the effective application of lampricides in lake sturgeon streams by conducting extensive fishery surveys to determine current population status.

 


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