Lake Ontario Lake Herring Restoration

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and partner agencies have begun stocking lake herring into Irondequoit Bay on Lake Ontario.

Until the mid 1950s, Lake Ontario was home to a diverse group of whitefish that included as many as seven species that occupied varying depths of the lake.

Only three species are known to remain, the lake whitefish, round whitefish and lake herring. The abundance and distribution of these species in the lake is now greatly reduced.

DEC recently announced the first re-introduction of the bloater, a deep water form of whitefish, into Lake Ontario. Lake herring occupy and spawn in shallower water relative to the bloater, and spawn earlier in winter.

Re-establishing self-sustaining populations of native whitefishes in Lake Ontario is the focus of cooperative efforts between DEC, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with supporting research conducted by The Nature Conservancy.

Lake herring were once an important prey fish in Lake Ontario, and supported important commercial fisheries that collapsed in the early 1950s largely due to over-harvest.

In New York waters of Lake Ontario, lake herring historically spawned in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, the Sandy Pond, and Chaumont Bay. Ongoing research has documented current lake herring spawning only in Chaumont Bay.

Irondequoit Bay is adjacent to the Rochester Area of Concern (AOC), and is the focus of international efforts to restore habitats and human uses impacted by historic chemical contamination.

source: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation