Sea Grant “Dream Team” Studying Lake Ontario Fisheries

Sea Grant “Dream Team” Studying Lake Ontario Fisheries

Of the nearly five-and-a-half million trout and salmon stocked into Lake Ontario in 1999 by New York State (3.7 million) and the Canadian province of Ontario (1.7 million), how many are surviving and for how long? Answers to questions about the fishes’ survival and growth will come from a New York Sea Grant study by a multitalented “Dream Team” of scientists. New York State’s 750,000-plus licensed anglers, Great Lakes sportfishing business owners (producing an estimated $43 million net value to the state’s economy), and Canadian counterparts eagerly await results of the two-year, $600,000 project.

The scientists are from Cornell and Syracuse Universities, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Canada’s Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is lending scientific support to the study by contributing data, fish samples, and access to the province’s archive of otoliths to the study.

One specific research technique involves the extracting of tiny samples of fish otoliths (or ear stones) for chemical analysis. This process can tell much about that fish’s environment, its temperature, growth rate, and location in the food web throughout the individual fish’s lifetime. Over the last several years, biologists on both sides of Lake Ontario have observed considerable yet unknown numbers of naturally produced Chinook salmon, the lake’s top predatory species. These wild fish may equate to additional hungry mouths to feed, over and above the numbers of fish that are stocked.

Results are expected to be available sometime after the team completes its work in early 2002. While research is primarily focused on Chinook salmon, the researchers will also study Coho salmon, and Steelhead and brown trout.

Team members include Patrick J. Sullivan, Clifford E. Kraft, and Edward L. Mills with Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources; Lars G. Rudstam from Cornell’s Biological Field Station; William P. Patterson, Syracuse University Department of Earth Sciences; Donald J. Stewart, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Daniel L. Bishop, Brian F. Lantry and Leslie R. Wedge with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; James H. Johnson and Robert O’Gorman with the U.S. Geological Survey. Tom Stewart has been coordinating OMNR’s efforts with respect to this study.

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