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Cisco (formerly known as Lake Herring) Coregonus artedi are native shallow water coregonines which were formerly very abundant in the Great Lakes and provided large commercial fisheries and healthy prey to native piscivores. In most areas outside of Lake Superior, cisco abundance is greatly reduced and in Lakes Ontario and Erie they are uncommon to rare.
Cisco restoration efforts are ongoing in Lake Ontario and proposed for Lake Erie, however, descriptions of spawning substrate for successful natural reproduction do not exist. This project investigates the qualities of successful spawning habitat in Thunder Bay in Lake Superior and Grand Traverse Bay in Lake Michigan where healthy, self-sustaining stocks still exist and use those descriptions to investigate the quality and extent of habitat in Irondequoit and Sodus Bays in Lake Ontario, which were areas of former abundance that are now devoid of cisco.
By measuring quality and supply of spawning habitat for areas of imperiled lake herring production against standards developed from healthy populations, this research directly aligns with the principal initiatives and commitments for the Habitat and Species focus area of the GLRI Action Plan II. Both initiatives are captured in the work as well as the habitat commitment to restore and enhance GLRI-targeted habitats and the native species commitment to promote self-sustaining populations of native non-threatened species. This project supports the progress measure to promote populations of native non-threatened and non-endangered species self-sustaining in the wild. This project also has ties to the Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern (AOC) Focus Area and the Invasive Species Focus Area by supporting the progress measures to help in removing Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) in the Rochester AOC and to block pathways through which aquatic invasive species can be introduced to the Great Lakes ecosystem by working towards recovering resilient populations of native species.
This research will aid the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), state, provincial and tribal management agencies by providing a description of the characteristics of high-quality cisco spawning habitat that can be applied throughout the Great Lakes and wherever cisco populations require management or restoration. Assessment of the amount and condition of that habitat remaining in the two Lake Ontario embayments where cisco restoration is underway will provide an initial demonstration of the usefulness of this information in determining the supply of high-quality habitat and the need for habitat restoration.
The goal of this project is to provide descriptions of successful spawning habitat for self-sustaining cisco (Coregonus artedi) populations in the Great Lakes for managers to use when making decisions concerning cisco management or restoration. Project objectives included: 1) examination of spawning habitat used by self-sustaining cisco stocks in Lakes Superior, Michigan and Ontario; 2) mapping cisco habitat in areas where they are known to spawn and areas targeted for restoration; and 3) using the spawning habitat descriptors developed in this project to investigate the quality and extent of habitat in Irondequoit and Sodus Bays in Lake Ontario, which were areas of former abundance that now have been targeted for restoration. To accomplish these objectives, post-spawn winter collections of live incubating eggs over a variety of depths and substrates were targeted to identify successful habitat. In addition, side scan and multibeam sonar were used to map active and potential habitat.
Differences observed in spawning habitat preferences reflect plasticity in Great Lakes cisco spawning habitat use at the species level. Two main spawning habitats were identified 1) egg deposition over shallow rock substrate and 2) egg deposition over deep soft substrate. However, those egg deposition preferences were not observed simultaneously within a site even when both habitat types were present in apparently good spawning condition. This seems to indicate that some stocks exhibiting specific spawning strategies have been lost at least at the local scale, or that some habitat variable unaccounted for in this study may be important (e.g., wave energy during winter storms).
Paufve, M. R., Sethi, S. A., Lantry, B. F., Weidel, B. C., and Rudstam, L. G. 2019. Assessing the spawning ecology of fish in situ using a benthic pump sampler. Fisheries Res. 214, 19–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2019.01.029.
Below are partners associated with this project.