Scientists restoring two native fish species in Lake Ontario

Project Summary The U.S. Geological Survey is taking an innovative approach to simultaneously restoring two native fish species — Atlantic salmon and bloater — at different levels of Lake Ontario’s food web.

Project name: Improving Strategies to Restore Aquatic Habitats and Species.

Location: U.S. Geological Survey’s Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science in Cortland, N.Y.

Tiny Atlantic salmon swim in the USGS laboratory, where they are raised before being released into Lake Ontario tributaries. (U.S. Geological Survey photo)

Description: Historically, the Lake Ontario population of Atlantic salmon represented the largest freshwater population of salmon in the world. Overfishing and loss of spawning habitat has since led to their extirpation. A state-of-the-art fish culture facility built at the USGS Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science is helping scientists develop effective rearing and stocking techniques for Atlantic salmon and bloater (a type of herring). Bloaters are a food source for Atlantic salmon. The first release of hatchery-reared salmon occurred in fall 2011, with plans to release the first “Lake Ontario strain” salmon in 2016. Bloater release was scheduled to begin this year. The project is a critical first step in restoring a resilient native fish community in Lake Ontario, which will strengthen the local ecosystem and the local economy.

Approximate cost of project: $2.1 million, which came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Resource challenges addressed: Restoration of extirpated and/or severely reduced native Great Lakes fish species. The USGS program will also advance scientific understanding of how to rebuild wild populations of native fish species.

The finished product of the fish rearing project, a beautiful Atlantic salmon. (USGS photo)

Key partners (public and private): U.S. Geological Survey, New York State, Canadian and Native American tribal officials around Lake Ontario.

Types of jobs created: Fish culturists, engineers, general contractors, excavators, plumbers, electricians and steelworkers.

Results and accomplishments: About 65,000 Atlantic salmon were released in Lake Ontario tributaries in September 2011. Another 8,000 fall fingerling salmon were released in St. Lawrence River tributaries in October 2011 in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. The USGS hatchery is also rearing lake herring and bloater, which will be released into Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Web site:

Originally Published: June 5, 2012

2 Responses to Scientists restoring two native fish species in Lake Ontario

  1. Michael Strijek says:

    The re establishment of this magnificent native species should be first and foremost on the agendas of the US and Canadian resource departments. Replacement of the less desirable Pacific salmon species should be the ultimate goal (with exception of the Steelheads which like the Atlantics are capable of spawning and surviving). The absence of predator and forage species (i.e….Bears!!!) creates a massive residue from dead/decaying salmon which is beyond description and both a detriment to the fishery and environment.

  2. Paul Flansburg says:

    I’m so glad to see such a significant restoration effort in my neighboring Lake Ontario! Btw, I love the new format for reconition of successes! The photo galleries representing assigned regions allows the viewer to more greatly appreciate efforts without being overwhelmed. We can just click on the photos representing a particular interest but still appreciate the breadth of successful efforts. Great work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *