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Region 3 USFWS Offices Assist Lake Ontario with Bloater Chub Reintroduction Efforts
Midwest Region, March 1, 2012
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A commercial gill-tug.  This boat was used in pilot-projects in 2010-2011, while the Alicae Rae, out of Sister Bay, WI and a commercial trawler, out of Two Rivers, WI, were used in 2012.
A commercial gill-tug. This boat was used in pilot-projects in 2010-2011, while the Alicae Rae, out of Sister Bay, WI and a commercial trawler, out of Two Rivers, WI, were used in 2012. - Photo Credit: Ted Treska (USFWS)
A deepwater Lake Michigan bloater chub; as gillnets are lifted to the surface, the fish’s swimbladder expands lending to the name “bloater” chub.
A deepwater Lake Michigan bloater chub; as gillnets are lifted to the surface, the fish’s swimbladder expands lending to the name “bloater” chub. - Photo Credit: Dale Hanson (USFWS)
Roger Gordon (Jordan River NFH) removes the eggs from a ripe female which will be spawned with milt from a male.
Roger Gordon (Jordan River NFH) removes the eggs from a ripe female which will be spawned with milt from a male. - Photo Credit: Dale Hanson (USFWS)

Since their establishment in the 1950’s, non-native alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) have become the most abundant preyfish in the Laurentian Great Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Ontario, a role historically occupied by a diverse community of native ciscoes (Coregonus spp.). More recently the invasive quagga mussels have spread throughout the Great Lakes.  As efficient filter feeders, they have drastically reduced food availability in pelagic waters. Great Lakes alewife populations have plummeted in response to lower pelagic productivity and lake managers are now very concerned with high volatility in predator-prey relationships.

Reestablishing a diverse preyfish community, one that may be more adaptable to oligotrophic conditions, is quickly becoming a top priority in the Great Lakes as it may reduce the potential threat of a collapse among top salmonine predators. Restoration of native ciscoes is gaining traction throughout the Great Lakes basin, but Lake Ontario is at the forefront with the development of a Strategic Plan for the Reestablishment of Native Deepwater Ciscoes in Lake Ontario. The Strategic Plan calls for annual stocking of 500,000 deepwater cisco juveniles into Lake Ontario by 2015.  The hope is that they will inhabit deep-water areas of the lake (bottom depths >45 m). Clearly a reintroduction program of this magnitude will require the development of a hatchery broodstock to produce offspring which will be released into the wild. But where and how will this broodstock be developed?
 

Lake Michigan supports populations of bloater chubs (Coregonus hoyi), a deepwater cisco that is genetically similar to Lake Ontario’s existing shallow-water cisco population (C. artedi). In recent years the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has joined the multiagency collaborative efforts, including the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and Great Lakes Fishery Commission to develop a genetically diverse hatchery broodstock of bloater chubs from Lake Michigan for the reintroduction of bloater in Lake Ontario.
 

On nine separate occasions between January 21 and February 24, 2012,  U.S Fish & Wildlife Service staff including Roger Gordon and Paul Haver (Jordan River NFH), Ted Eggebraaten, Ted Treska, and Dale Hanson (Green Bay FWCO) accompanied commercial fishers aboard the Alicia Rae, a 45’ gillnet tug, and other similar boats to obtain actively spawning bloater from Lake Michigan. While onboard, staff collected eggs from females and fertilized them in containers with milt from fresh males. Fertilized eggs were then disinfected to minimize the transfer of viral and bacterial disease, and stored at temperatures near 4 degrees C until they were delivered to the OMNR White Lake Fish Culture Station for rearing. Genetic samples from each parent and their subsequent progeny will be analyzed to ensure sufficient genetic diversity is retained in the broodstock line and fish samples were analyzed by the LaCrosse FHC to determine a disease history for the broodstock. Finally, fertilized eggs were also sent to the USGS Tunison Lab where fish-rearing experiments will be performed to increase fish culture knowledge for this species so that an efficient conservation hatchery program can be developed. These are exciting times as state, provincial, and federal agencies are all working together to restore native cisco populations for the health of the Great Lakes.


Contact Info: Dale Hanson, 920-866-1765, dale_hanson@fws.gov
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