Lake Ontario Deepwater Cisco Restoration

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New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and partner agencies recently announced efforts to re-introduce “bloater” fish, a deepwater cisco, into Lake Ontario offshore of Oswego.

Bloaters feed primarily on invertebrates in water depths from 180 feet to 650 feet. Historically, they were an important food source for native lake trout and burbot.

Bloaters have been absent from Lake Ontario for nearly thirty years. The program, the first of its kind in the Great Lakes, is the culmination of several years of collaborative laboratory, hatchery and field research conducted by federal, state, and provincial agencies. The last known Lake Ontario bloater was collected in 1983.

Re-establishing self-sustaining populations of bloater in Lake Ontario is the focus of a cooperative, international effort between DEC, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to restore native fish populations in Lake Ontario.

The re-introduction program is intended to improve food web stability and mitigate negative impacts of invasive species. Biologists stress that long term stocking will be required in order for the program to be successful.

Re-introducing bloaters will provide more food choices for predators, such as lake trout and salmon, and diversify the Lake Ontario fish community.

According to scientists, Lake trout and salmon that feed primarily on alewife can experience reproductive failure due to a vitamin B deficiency. Predators that feed on native species like bloater are less likely to experience reproductive failure.

source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation