November 24, 2003

                ►Dennis Schornack, Chair, U.S. Section, IJC:  IJC helping lead the charge against Exotics

                ►Chris Goddard, Ph. D. Sec'y, Great Lakes Fishery Commission: Sea Lamprey Control & Health Status of

               Great Lakes.

                ►Marc Gaden, Communications Director, GLFC: The threat of Asian Carp

                ►Bob O’Gorman, Station Supervisor, Lake Ontario Biological Station, USGS: Angler Catches and Food 

               Web Disruption of Lake Ontario

                ►Jeff Reutter Ph.D. Director, Ohio Sea Grant: Update on the "Dead Zone" ANS and Related Ecosystem

               Changes

                ►Jerry McClain, USFWS Station Chief, Alpena, MI: FWS Fisheries Program’s Vision for the Future &

               Cormorants

                ►Gary Isbell, Fish Chief, OH DNR:  Lake Erie: Status, Regulations, Creel Limits

                ►Tom Mayher, Pres, North Coast Sportfishing Council; Ohio Dir, GLSFC: Lake Erie's walleye status and the

               cormorant issue

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2003 GLSFC Annual Meeting highlights

Ottawa County Visitors Bureau, Port Clinton, Ohio – Oct. 18, 2003

 

Opening Remarks from Dan Thomas, President, GLSFC

Thomas welcomed everyone to Port Clinton.  He mentioned it was the 31st annual meeting, and remarked the GLSFC had previously held their annual meeting in Port Clinton 10 years ago.  At that time the issues/discussion were different. Ten years ago there were millions more walleye in Lake Erie.  Invasive species were only an emerging threat, with most species known only to scientists and research biologists. Ten years ago, we seemed to be losing the battle and the funding to fight sea

lamprey.   Ruffe, gobies and Asian carp were known only by the scientific community.

 

Today, the Lake Erie walleye population has reached an all-time low; under the able leadership of Dr Chris Goddard, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission no longer has to mount an annual battle to secure funding for lamprey treatment and their population is largely under control. Today, the names of most invasive species are now a household name and we are now losing the battle to control ballast contamination.

 

Follows are a summary of the comments made by the meeting's speakers.

 


Dennis Schornack, Chairman U.S. Section, IJC

IJC helping lead the charge against Invasive Species

Dennis Schornack thanked Dan and the GLSFC for their actions leading to his recent confirmation as Chair of the IJC U.S. Section.  He stated he was very concerned about invasive species. Schornack said we should all be angry at the slow pace of progress at controlling invasive species. 

 

"It is a 'joint" issue because both Canada and US must address the issue." Schornack said.  "It can’t be done by either country alone.   Today there are over 160 identified invasive species in the Great Lakes and over 1200 nationwide.  In San Francisco alone, a new critter is discovered on average, every 8 months.   Schornack said we are awaiting a "potential ecological disaster."   "We all need to work even harder to try to insure that this issue is addressed", Schornack urged.   'Contact Senators and Congressman and urge passage of the National Invasive Species Act (NAISA)

 

According to Schornack there are three main "doorways":

► Ballast water-This the number one threat.  However, of all of the ships in international commerce, the focus is on less than 400 ships; perhaps 275.   The main cargoes are steel coming in and grain going out.  Three main customers control 75% of these ships –Cargil, US Steel, and Archer-Daniels-Midland. We can be part of the solution by writing Senators and Congressmen to urge action; first in the Great Lakes.  We can solve it.  Its really

all about a few simple words, "killing critters in ballast water."

 

Congress was poised to pass the invasive species legislation last fall, but the initiative is stalled. And now the shipping industry wants a global approach to addressing these critters.  They want the UN's International Maritime Organization to deal with the issue instead of Congress.  That will take another 15-20 to get any meaningful mandates.

 

► The "side door" is the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. The canal is 30 ft deep and 60 ft wide.  The target here is the Asian Carp that came in from catfish farmers in Arkansas.  These fish get to 50 –60 lbs, with some reaching over 100 lbs, but only eat plankton.  If they get into the Great Lakes they could turn it into a "carp pond" by destroying the bottom of the food chain.   An electrical barrier has been installed but it is still experimental.   A "rapid response" plan may entail using rotenone.   A second barrier is needed and funding for it for it has been appropriated, but it's construction need to be expedited by the US Corps of Engineers.

 

► The "back door" is the way these invasive critters can cause problems. This is primarily due to the aquarium trade and the sale of live exotic species that could become invasive.  For example, live Asian Carp are being sold in Toronto!  We all need to take measures to be good conservationists and not add to the problem. 

 


Chris Goddard, Ph. D. Secretary Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Sea Lamprey Control & Health Status of Great Lakes

  

Lake Superior has seen a tremendous reduction in spawning lamprey.  Lake Huron has seen a slight increase; but is below peaks and they expect a decrease.  Lake Huron is still the major problem.  Lake Michigan has been a surprise because of an unanticipated increase.  They are not sure why.  One target is the Manistique river.   Lake Erie has also seen decreases.   Increased funding has made increased treatment possible.  There is a strong correlation between treatment and population counts.

   

More lampreys spawn in the St Mary’s River than all of the rest of the Great Lakes combined.   There are three main methods employed there to control lamprey – trapping, granular Bayluscide and sterile males.   To control lamprey in the St Mary’s we need to get 70% of the spawning adults.   Trapping takes females out and provides males to sterilize.  Sterile male lampreys compete for and take productive females out of the population.    GPS tracking has identified target areas to spread granular Bayluscide.  It was estimated that there were 5.2 million lampreys in the St Mary’s in the 1993-96 period.  That population has been reduced to 1.9 million in 2002 and to .7 million in 2003.

   

The increase in Lake Michigan is attributed to the Manistique River.  The major problem is that the dam on the river is getting old and is allowing lampreys to get past the traps and barriers.  A recent $500,000 chemical treatment should lead to decreases in lamprey in Lake Michigan in 2004 and a huge decrease in 2005.  In addition a new barrier constructed with help from the Army Corps of Engineers will create a long term, cost effective solution.

   

A new discovery is the use of pheromones.  A new chemical mimics the pheromones.  This is a "wonderful opportunity" to increase the capture rate of females in traps. 

 

         

When asked to list other Great Lakes issues, Dr. Goddard identified:

BKD - in all lakes but Superior –showing a significant increase,

Whitefish – "skinny" – loss of body mass, with a decrease of Diporeia as the possible culprit,

Botulism – evident in all lakes – the question is; are Gobies causing the problem?

Heterosporis – Microscopic parasite – are baitfish the problem?

 

        


Marc Gaden, Communications Director, GLFC

The threat of Asian Carp

 

       

 

These fish are a major threat.  They reproduce rapidly.  They alter the ecosystems.  They readily survive in a Great Lakes type climate.  We need to biologically separate the Mississippi from the Great Lakes ecosystem.  One barrier was already in place.  A second, superior barrier is being built and should be operational soon.   A "rapid response" plan is being formulated should the carp population appear in the river around the barriers.  Fisheries managers will explore all options including the use of piscicides. (Rotenone) Given the seriousness of the problem, a piscicide is an appropriate tool.

 

      

Gaden said he was astonished to learn that thousands of live Asian Carp are sold each year.   This represents a major threat and efforts are being made to get them listed as “injurious” as part of the Lacey Act to address the commerce of these live fish.  This would prevent the import and interstate transportation of these carp.

 

      

 

We need to address this issue before they become established.  One option being considered is a law suit against the commercial fish industry for the damages of released exotics.   Even if the law suit is lost, the thought is the threat of law suits would increase insurance for those who don’t take appropriate action.

 

   

 


Bob O’Gorman, Field Station Supervisor, Lake Ontario Biological Station, USGS

Angler Catches and Food Web Disruption in the Offshore Waters of Lake Ontario

Trout & salmon harvested per boat in Lake Ontario rebounded in 2003; particularly for chinook.   Fishing is "pretty good"; however, angler effort was down.   The size of chinook was down in 2003.  One angler derby averaged under 32" in 2003 versus over 40" in 1999.  This decrease is thought to be tied to alewives number and nutritional quality.   "Skinny" lake trout are also starting to show up.

 

Rainbow smelt have collapsed in recent years, and alewives have seen a general downward trend over the years.  This downward trend is blamed on a disruption of the food chain caused by exotics and the lowering of phosphorous.   It is higher than in the late '90's.  Nutritional quality has also gone down.  

 

Zebra and Quagga Mussels are the main problems.  Quagga mussels have actually replaced the Zebra in many areas.  "They are covering the lake like a carpet", O'Gorman said. "Diporeia and Mysis are important parts of

the food chain at the bottom of the lake, and Diporeia have disappeared from Lake Ontario. Quagga mussels have replaced them and are not a food source for fish.  There is concern that Mysids shrimp, another important food source for alewives are also declining in population in deep water. Hopefully, this is not a trend.  Mysis are important because they are a prime source of food for alewives late in the year and contribute to their nutritional value.

 

It appears that the quagga mussels have had a major impact on the Mysis population. These critters are at the bottom of the food chain and are the main source of nourishment for the alewife population, too. The numbers of alewives are OK at this time but their body mass is subnormal - they are not as fat as they should be.

 

The disruption in the food web is again thought to be the problem.  "It all seems to be linked to invasive species."  Food web disruption is tied to invasive species.   It’s a "snowball rolling down hill" and will eventually hit the angler.   No one agency has the resources or authority to deal with all of the problems.  It takes co-operation of many agencies.


Jeff Reutter Ph. D. Director, Ohio Sea Grant

Update on the "Dead Zone" ANS and Related Ecosystem Changes

 

 

More fish for human consumption come from Lake Erie than other four Great Lakes combined.   It is the shallowest, warmest Great Lake and the most nutrient rich. It is estimated that 85-90 % of the water in Lake Erie comes from the Detroit River and the upper lakes, which are at all-time lows.   Therefore, low water will continue to be a problem in Lake Erie.  

 

The Central basin of Lake Erie is where a "dead zone" has re-appeared. Anoxic Hypolimnion – the lack of oxygen below the thermocline is occurring in the Central Basin.  Low water levels, global   warming, increasing phosphorous levels and zebra

mussels are all thought to be contributors to this problem. Phytoplankton (Alga) was declining until recently when an increase was seen.   Reutter said, 'We don’t want to return to the '70's."

 

       

 

Zebra mussels have made a significant change in water clarity; a sign of not a lot of "food" in the water.  They were first found in 1988.   Zebra mussels spit out Blue-green algae; the source of algal blooms so they don’t help there. Gobies are another potential threat, having arrived in 1996 in the Western Basin.  We really don’t know how they will effect the lake long term.

 

Reutter added to earlier comments on the importance of increasing fat content of fish larvae.   It increases survival.  An increase in the fat content of fish larvae can occur from an increase in fat content of the zoo-plankton they are eating.   It is a complicated issue. 

 

Separately, he commented that we need to push legislation to include the wording "Coastal, Ocean and Great Lakes" to be sure we are included in important legislation.  In closing , Reutter commented that, "This a time for us to be conservative because the system is clearly in a state of change. This system is not even close to being in a steady state.'

 


Jerry McClain, USFWS Station Chief, Alpena, MI

FWS Fisheries Program’s Vision for the Future & cormorants

 

 

 

McClain outlined the FWS Fisheries Program’s Vision for the Future in the Great Lakes Ecosystem

McClain started his talk with an "Inventory of Aquatic Species".   He stated concern with changes to ecosystem and provided some facts.

                Among fish populations:

                71 are endangered

                44 are threatened

                10 are candidates for listing

McClain provided an overview of Conserving America’s Fisheries – a steering committee report from the USFWS Dept of Interior.  A key component of the vision document is "The Vision – What’s In It?"   The vision statement is:

 

       

 

"Working with Partners to restore and maintain fish and other aquatic resources at self-sustaining levels and support of Federal mitigation programs for the benefit of the American people."

 

The vision contains a commitment to:

  - Protect the health of aquatic habitat

  - Restore fish and other aquatic resources

  - Provide opportunities to enjoy the many benefits of healthy aquatic resources

 

The Focus Areas are:

- Partnership and Accountability 

- Aquatic Species Conservation and Management

 - Public Use

 - Co-operation with Native Americans

  - Leadership in Science and Technology         

  - Workforce Management

 

In closing McClain stated, "We need and want your input!"  What are we doing right?  What are we doing wrong?   How can we be a better partner to you for the benefit of the fishery resource of the Great Lakes?      http://www.fisheries.fws.gov/alpena/index.htm

 

        

 

On the Cormorant issue

 McClain gave an overview of the latest actions and laws/ rules. The goals were to reduce conflicts, increase flexibility of natural resource agencies in dealing with DCCOs and to insure the conservation of healthy viable DCCO populations.  The Feds recently released new rules for Cormorants on October 8, in the Federal Register Vol. 68, No 195, pp 58022 – 58037.

 

Two rulemaking elements of the preferred alternative included an Aquaculture Depredation Order, and the Public Resource Depredation Order. These are applicable to commercial freshwater aquaculture facilities and state and federal hatcheries, and were expanded to include winter roost control.

 

Public Resource Depredation Order authorizes state, tribal and USDA APHIS personnel to implement control without permit in 24 states, and may designate "control agents". The new rules go into effect after a 30 day waiting period. Following  the waiting period, agencies may now initiate activities.


Gary Isbell, Fish Chief, Oh DNR

Roger Knight, Lake Erie Supervisor

Lake Erie: Status, Regulations, Creel Limits & Angling Problems

Isbell first passed out the new Lake Erie Fishing Guide "Who cares about fishing participation? - Licenses are our lifeblood" and asked everyone to give one to a friend.  Lake Erie accounts for 430,000 Lake Erie anglers for Ohio. The total of all anglers are worth $761 million to Ohio.

 

Isbell next gave an overview of the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.  It’s about fishing, boating and stewardship.   Ohio has a new system where they "swipe" the back of a drivers license to get a tremendous amount of data that can help them market fisheries.   In January they will be able to sell a license via the internet.   Isbell concluded by saying “FISH OHIO …or at least somewhere.”

 

Roger Knight gave an update of Ohio’s Lake Erie Fisheries.

The walleye fishery shows a decline in participation and harvest.   This is primarily a result of the reduction in the walleye population.   Their main concerns are, population numbers, reproduction and local populations.

As a result of their research findings and concerns, Ohio announced new regulations including a reduction of the walleye bag limit from 4 to 3 in March-April and to 6 in

 other months.   They have also instituted a new 15" minimum size.  Finally, there will be no treble hooks allowed in bays.

 

The 2003 hatch for walleye appears to have been very good and that is very good news given poor reproduction in recent years. 

 

Yellow perch harvest has been increasing in both effort and fish caught.   Spawners of yellow perch seem to also be increasing.  Some good news for Lake Erie.

 

Smallmouth Bass has been dipping in recent years after a large increase in the 90's.  The population seems to be declining.   As such, Smallmouth will be closed to "possession" May 1 up to the last Saturday in June.   The DNR believes one threat to Smallmouth is the round goby.   When a male Smallmouth leaves the nest (perhaps from being caught by an angler), gobies immediately move in and feed quickly destroying the nest.   Initial research shows that angling can impact nesting success of smallmouth.

 

 Finally, Knight said that Ohio is banding Walleye with jaw tags and asks for help from anglers in reporting any tagged fish caught.    They are also conducting research on habitat, fish diets, lower trophic levels (plankton/ algae), and supporting university research on walleye and perch.

 


Tom Mayher, President, North Coast Sportfishing Council; Ohio Director, GLSFC

Lake Erie's walleye status and the cormorant issue

Tom provided a perspective from the angling perspective. He first thanked all of the fishery managers for the tremendous progress they have made.  

 

Tom said he is "mad as hell" about the Cormorant.   He listed the reduction of the huge cormorant population as one of the key issues we need to address.   Tom said cormorants have destroyed the old growth trees on many islands; perhaps permanently.   He said they also eat tremendous amounts of bait fish and immature game fish like Smallmouth.   He asked that Ohio list the cormorant   

as a pest and take other actions, too.

 

Second, Tom addressed the walleye situation.   He said walleye should be managed by one set of rules – on a lakewide basis.   This might include the Detroit River and Lake St Clair as part of Lake Erie management.  More research is needed on spawning habits and population numbers of walleye.  More long term research programs are needed.  Some aspects to be considered or researched include whether sanctuaries would be a better alternative to closing the season down.  He also mentioned concern for the Canadian commercial fishery regulations.   Other impacts to research include gobies, quagga mussels, cormorants, white bass, etc.


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