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GLIN==> Lake Ontario Dream Team

Posted on behalf of Kara Dunn <karalynn@gisco.net>

NY Sea Grant News Release

Results Will Be Important to NY, Great Lakes, and Canada

Brockport, NY -- Of the nearly five-and-a-half million trout and salmon
stocked into Lake Ontario in 1999 by New York State (3.7 million) and the
Canadian province of Ontario (1.7 million), how many are surviving and for
how long? Answers to questions about the fishes' survival and growth will
come from a New York Sea Grant study by a multi-talented "Dream Team" of
scientists. New York State's 750,000-plus licensed anglers, Great Lakes
sportfishing business owners producing an estimated $43 million net value to
the state's economy, and Canadian counterparts eagerly await results of the
two-year, $600,000 project.

"This is truly a "Dream Team" of highly skilled scientists with expertise
ranging from fisheries to geochemistry," says Dave MacNeill, Fisheries
Specialist with New York Sea Grant. "This team is conducting an exciting
research project designed to better understand trout and salmon growth,
their survival and the levels of natural reproduction. The research team
will be using some high tech approaches to evaluate aging and growth rates
of both stocked and wild salmon."

Team members are from Cornell and Syracuse Universities, SUNY College of
Environmental Science & Forestry, the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation, and the US Geological Survey. Canada's Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources is lending scientific support to the study by
contributing data, fish samples, and access to the province's archive of
otoliths to the study.

One specific research technique involves the extracting of tiny samples of
fish otoliths or ear stones for chemical analysis. This process can tell
much about that fish's environment and its temperature, its growth rate, and
its location in the food web throughout the individual fish's lifetime.

Ecosystem changes in Lake Ontario in the past 10 years are presenting
fisheries managers with new management challenges, says MacNeill.

"It is believed that intentional nutrient reductions beginning in the late
1970s, as mandates from international legislation to improve the lake's
water quality, may have reduced the amount of available energy to support
fish in the open waters of the lake. The exotic zebra mussels may be
redirecting some of the available food energy to the lake bottom and out of
the loop for fish in the open lake waters. What this suggests," says
MacNeill, "is that the lake may not be capable of supporting as many trout
and salmon as before, generating some concerns with maintaining the delicate
predator-prey balance. This balance is maintained by 'Mother Nature' and by
fisheries management efforts such as trout and salmon stocking.

Study Will Fill In Missing Pieces
"One of the important missing pieces of information this study could provide
is the relative rates of survival by both stocked and wild salmon as well as
their distribution patterns and consumption rates on prey fish populations,"
continues MacNeill.

Over the last several years, biologists on both sides of Lake Ontario have
observed considerable yet unknown numbers of naturally produced chinook
salmon, the lake's top predatory species. These wild fish may equate to
additional hungry mouths to feed, over and above the numbers of fish that
are stocked.

"The resulting data would help fisheries managers better understand the
predator-prey balance to maintain Lake Ontario's world-class sportfishery.
By better understanding the factors influencing the fishes' survival,
scientists may be able to develop a more precise management program to
better adapt to the changing nature of the lake," comments MacNeill.

Marion Daniels, a management biologist with the Lake Ontario Management unit
of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, estimates
Ontario's Lake Ontario sportfishing expenditures and investments total more
than $100 million to the provincial economy. "The lake has changed so
dramatically over the last decade or two that it is time to quantify the
predator-prey balance to help evaluate the success of our stocking programs
and the contributions of wild fisheries. The lake's recreational fisheries
are valued by many public interest groups who share our anticipation of the
study results."

Lake Anglers Await Results
Canadian anglers awaiting study results include Frank Teklenburg of the Port
Whitby Sport Fishing Association whose members have been collecting juvenile
trout and salmon for this study. "Lake Ontario is a big lake and partners on
both sides need to take care of it," says Teklenburg. "Right now the fish
are thriving in our area and the populations can sustain the pressure
anglers put on from May through October. We believe the information from
this study about the lake in total and about its open waters will be
significant for maintaining and improving the fisheries."

Ed Sander, chairman of New York's Monroe County's Fisheries Advisory Board,
says study results will have a positive influence on the future of
sportfishing and not only in New York and Ontario. "The information gained
will fill a void in the knowledge base which will allow for more effective
management of the Lake Ontario fisheries and may be translated to help the
other Great Lakes as well."

Results are expected to be available sometime after the team completes its
work in early 2002. While research is primarily focused on chinook salmon,
the researchers will also study coho salmon, and steelhead and brown trout.

Team members include Patrick J. Sullivan, Clifford E. Kraft, and Edward L.
Mills with Cornell University's Department of Natural Resources; Lars G.
Rudstam from Cornell's Biological Field Station; William P. Patterson,
Syracuse University Department of Earth Sciences; Donald J. Stewart,
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Daniel L. Bishop, Brian
F. Lantry and Leslie R. Wedge with the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation; James H. Johnson and Robert O'Gorman with the
U.S. Geological Survey. Tom Stewart has been coordinating OMNR's efforts
with respect to this study.

This project is one of several in New York Sea Grant's Coastal Fisheries
focus area for 2000-2001. Other program areas include coastal habitat
enhancement, marine and Great Lakes education, aquatic nuisances, coastal
tourism and recreation, and shoreline erosion and water levels.

Contact: Dave MacNeill, Fisheries Specialist, NY Sea Grant, 716-395-2638,

David White, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, NY Sea Grant, 315-341-3042,


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