Proceedings of the 2004 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting

Subject Oriented Session: Issues and Problems as Sturgeon Populations Rebuild

The session began with a round of self-introductions and identification of topics for discussion.

Topics covered:
- What are or could be issues and problems
- What needs to be done

Participant List:
Nancy Auer (facilitator), David Bos, Kristin Bott, Dona Crist, Tim Cwalinski, Andrea Drauch, Patrick Forsythe, Brian Gunderman, Randy Jackson, Chet MacKenzie, Rod McDonald, Tom Mosindy, Jonathan Pyatskowit Steve Scott, Kim Scribner, Melvin Southwind, Amy Welsh, John Weisser

Discussion Summary:
What do we think are or will be issues or problems?

1) Open up harvest – and at what levels?
1a) How do we handle harvest if stocks mix (i.e. Green Bay where several river groups seem to mix?).
1b) How do we allocate harvest to various user groups?
2) At what level is recovery complete (see L. Superior & L. Michigan Rehab Plans)
From an ecological aspect? From a genetic aspect?
3) What are influences of pesticides and contaminants on sturgeon?
See OME and DEQ fishing guides.
4) How do we monitor and patrol “incidental catch” vs. folks actually fishing to catch and release sturgeon? Can we? Do we?
5) What happens if and when sturgeon become a nuisance to commercial fisherman again? Can we get commercial fishermen to report by-catch of sturgeon now so we can keep an eye on this?
6) How do we handle Black Market? Do we have enough law enforcement? Will agencies support enforcement over long term?
7) What do increased numbers of sturgeon do to other rehabilitation projects for other organisms? Canadian SAR act.
8) What are impacts of recovery of sturgeon expected to be on current fish communities such as walleye?
9) Need to work with sea lamprey control staff on barriers and chemical treatments.
10) Need for promise of money to monitor stable or increasing populations – what is long term commitment from state/provincial agencies?
11) We need to develop general management decisions and goals for growing sturgeon populations.
12) What are impacts of tournaments on sturgeon? More boats, large and faster boats, more incidental catch, mortality due to propeller damage, etc.
13) Can we establish a few refuges throughout the Great Lakes to protect adult, spawning and nursery habitat for a few populations now? These to be our reserve.

What needs to be done?

1) There is a need for a careful study of catch and release fishery on survival and condition of sturgeon, especially incorporating duration of time being fished.
2) Propose that the State of Michigan take contaminant samples from fish taken in fishery on Menominee River to increase knowledge of contaminants in sturgeon.
3) Public education needs to be increased to discourage the black market and increase awareness of unique value of the species and local efforts to recover species.
4) Need to set up monitoring of incidental catch in commercial fisheries and monitor over time, starting now. Need for incentive for fishers to report catch.
5) Need for more collaboration with individuals studying other species now being “recovered” – such as freshwater mussels, etc.
6) Need to know what interactions exist between lake sturgeon and other native species like walleye, lake whitefish, white sucker, etc.
7) Continue to work with sea lamprey control on individual river basis.
Some conflict with installation of additional barriers vs. fish passage issue.
8) Need to define healthy stock or population (in numbers, genetics, etc.).
9) Need to define user groups. What are the groups besides: sportfishers, [commercial fishers?], SFT/spear harvest?, subsistence needs/tribal harvest, school children-public education, general observers, etc.
10) Weigh option of protecting habitat or area vs. increasing law enforcement and public education.
11) Evaluation of protection level needs to be on case by case basis – maybe close some areas, protect some stocks or ecosystems totally, allow some harvest elsewhere.
This way one or two Great Lake stocks are protected to contribute to our knowledge of natural populations. Idea of developing ‘marine sanctuary’ closed fishing area was discussed at length.
12) Monitoring (assessment) of stable and increasing populations is needed, defined in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan rehab plans. Annual gillnet surveys in lakes seem to work best at this time. Is assessment with precision possible?

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