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Restoration of Lake Trout in Lake Superior through Interagency Cooperative Management

September 30, 2019

The lake trout is a keystone species in the Laurentian Great Lakes that supported valuable fisheries throughout the basin. However, lake trout populations declined to near extirpation in nearly all of the lakes because of the combined effects of over-fishing, sea lamprey predation, and habitat degradation. To restore self-sustaining lake trout populations in Lake Superior, state, provincial, federal, and tribal agencies agreed to an interjurisdictional management framework that allowed them to articulate and institute: (1) clear and common goals and actions for recovery; (2) early and intensive lake-wide stocking of hatchery-reared lake trout to enhance failing stocks; (3) early and effective lake-wide controls on mortality caused by sea lampreys and fisheries; and (4) standardized lake-wide evaluations of population trajectories and performance. Stocking was initiated in Lake Superior in 1950 and expanded after 1953, prior to effecting sea lamprey or fishery controls, thereby introducing large numbers of hatchery-origin fish that grew to maturity shortly after mortality was reduced. Abundant suitable nearshore spawning habitat was widely available for naïve lean hatchery-origin lake trout, and native lean lake trout persisted in some areas. The sea-lamprey-selective pesticide TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol) was applied first in Lake Superior in 1958, because of the presence of remnant native lake trout populations, which set the stage for closure of fisheries and good survival of newly stocked and remnant wild fish. As a consequence of these four factors, stocked fish exceeded historical density of wild fish by the 1980s in many areas, and thereby generated enhanced reproductive potential when combined with remnant wild fish. Lake trout recovery in Lake Superior is an extraordinary example of agency cooperation toward a common goal for managing recovery of an ecologically important shared resource.

Publication Year 2019
Title Restoration of Lake Trout in Lake Superior through Interagency Cooperative Management
Authors Michael J. Hansen, Charles R. Bronte
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70195571
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center