Lake trout making a comeback in Niagara River

Project Summary: New research findings are advancing efforts to restore the Niagara River lake trout population.

Project name: Lake trout and lake sturgeon research and restoration in the Niagara River.

Location: Lewiston, N.Y.

Description: Lake trout were a top fish predator in the Great Lakes for thousands of years, until invasive sea lamprey spread throughout the lakes in the 1940s.  Sea lamprey, an eel-like fish that clings to lake trout and sucks

Lake trout eggs are received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for hatching. If lake trout could once again spawn naturally in the Great Lakes, this kind of artificial hatchery would no longer be as necessary. Photo from Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Northeast Region.

Lake trout eggs are received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for hatching. If lake trout could once again spawn naturally in the Great Lakes, this kind of artificial hatchery would no longer be as necessary. Photo from Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Northeast Region.

their blood and bodily fluids, decimated lake trout populations throughout the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has spent $20 million annually since the 1960s to control sea lamprey populations, which has helped lake trout restoration efforts. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation began stocking lake trout in Lake Ontario in the 1970s in an attempt to rebuild the population. Naturally reproduced lake trout have been collected in the Niagara River since 1994, during population assessments. Lake trout are normally reef spawners, and spawn in lakes, but in 2005 researchers confirmed that lake trout were spawning in the lower Niagara River. That discovery led researchers to tag and track 18 lake trout to identify a suitable spawning site for the fish. In 2011, researchers collected live lake trout larvae in nets in the Niagara River, near Lewiston. The discovery was the first confirmation of successful lake trout spawning in the Niagara River. The finding will help researchers determine where more lake trout could spawn in the river and advance efforts to bolster the lake trout population. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are funding similar research on lake sturgeon in the Niagara River. Scientists are working to identify suitable sturgeon spawning areas in the river, which would bolster efforts to restore the sturgeon population.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee shows off a lake trout.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intern shows off a lake trout caught in Lake Ontario.

Approximate cost of project: $600,000, most of which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Resource challenges addressed: Loss of fish habitat, depressed populations of lake trout and lake sturgeon due to invasive species, pollution and other issues affecting fish in the Niagara River.

Key partners (public and private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation.

Types of jobs created: Fishery biologists, technicians and general laborers.

Results and accomplishments: Scientists identified the first lake trout spawning site in the Niagara River and natural reproduction by the imperiled fish. The discovery will bolster efforts to restore the lake trout and lake sturgeon populations in the Niagara River.

Web site: http://1.usa.gov/14TWyK5

Originally Published: July 9, 2013

 

 

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