The Lake Michigan Committee recently proposed a lake-wide reduction of 62 percent in the number of Chinook salmon stocked into Lake Michigan.
The proposal followed extensive consultation with angler groups and other stakeholders, and more than three years of research and monitoring.
The stocking reduction, which is proposed to commence in spring, 2017, underscores the shared commitment to sustain Lake Michigan’s prized salmon and trout sport fishery as the lake’s ecosystem shifts.
The Lake Michigan Committee comprises all state management agencies that border Lake Michigan and Michigan’s Tribal Governments signatory to the 1836 Treaty of Washington. Recommendations from the committee represent the consensus of all of its members.
Research by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state partners indicates that natural reproduction currently accounts for more than 60 percent of all Chinook in Lake Michigan.
With alewife populations at or near historic lows, the Lake Michigan Committee’s proposed strategy is intended to preserve important salmon and trout angling opportunities in each state.
Changes to the lake’s food web, including the prevalence of invasive mussels, have complicated the equation by diminishing the amount of food available for alewives, which has contributed to the greatly diminished abundances of the species. Alewives are a key prey fish for Chinook salmon.
Given the massive numbers of quagga mussels in Lake Michigan, prey fish are not expected to rebound any time soon to numbers that would support current stocking levels.
For 2017, the Lake Michigan Committee proposes a total lake-wide stocking of 690,000 Chinook salmon, down from the current 1,800,000.
The proposed reduction follows the third round of stocking reductions in 2013, when committee and state natural resource managers agreed to the current total from previous levels of 3.3 million Chinook stocked each year.
In addition to supporting the 2013 stocking reductions, stakeholders and natural resource managers agreed upon the need for a comprehensive monitoring plan to help inform management decisions and the obligation to respond quickly to changing conditions.
Each Lake Michigan Committee member agency must still approve and implement the committee’s recommendations. Each state agency will now work to discuss and implement changes in a manner most appropriate to their jurisdiction, and will collaborate with other Lake Michigan Committee members to assure a consistent Lake Michigan wide effort is implemented to balance predators and prey and sustain a quality salmon and trout fishery.
The Lake Michigan Committee comprises fishery managers from the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The committee’s work is facilitated by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, a Canadian and U.S. agency on the Great Lakes.
For more information, visit www.glfc.org.
source: Great Lakes Fishery Commission