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Great Lakes Article:

NY Sea Grant Institute Leads Fishing Public to Freshwater Info, Issues
Oswego Daily News
Submitted by New York Sea Grant
11/12/03


Through two Great Lakes Fisheries Leadership Institute workshops sponsored and led by New York Sea Grant, New York's fishing community is learning the latest information on freshwater fisheries management, the Great Lakes food webs, invasive species, fish stocking and current research.

Ed Sander, a Monroe County Fisheries Advisory Board member and an advisor to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, attended the Lake Ontario workshop (a second workshop was held on Lake Erie). Sander will share what he learned with the boards he serves and with sportfishing clubs and charter boat associations.

"In addition to the habitat and ecology information, I will emphasize uncertainty and its effect on fisheries management, and the role of invasives," Sander says. "The key issue for the Great Lakes is to absolutely get control of invasive species - they are the single most disruptive factor in the system.

"(New York Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist) Dave MacNeill's presentation on the history of what the (Lake Ontario) fishery once was, and what it has become, was very insightful. This information helps groups think about the fishery and perhaps why a conservative approach to stocking is more timely now than in the past when the forage base was stronger and the bottom of the food web was different," says Sander, one of NOAA's Environmental Heroes of the Year for 2002.

Invasives Cannot be Ignored

Charter Captain Mitch Franz chairs the Jefferson County Fisheries Board and is a member of the Lake Ontario Fisheries Coalition and the Henderson Harbor Guides Association.

"The charter industry has a stake in fisheries management because of what the industry draws to the area economically. From a research standpoint, the charter industry often casts a line into the water and brings up something no one has found yet," says Franz. "While the eastern end is less affected by exotic species at the moment, the spread of invasives throughout the Great Lakes cannot be ignored."

Encouraging Citizen Scientists

Doug Ververs, Team Coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, says the workshop encouraged attendees to become "citizen scientists."

"The scientific-based information shared provides educators, charter captains, and other (lake) resource users with direct, first-hand knowledge about the dramatic changes and fluctuating environment of the lake. The insights shared make attendees able to become spokespeople who can tell others that (fish) stocking decisions are not driven by one single factor," says Ververs.

"They can now explain that the filtering of the lake water by (invasive) zebra and quagga mussels means Pacific salmon cannot be stocked the way they were prior to the peak stocking period in the mid-1980s (with a constant level held through the early 90s)," he adds.

"An overall stocking mix that blends stocked fish with wild native fish can make a much better system that will support the (lake region's) economy which is based on hospitality and tourism," Ververs says.

What Kind of Legacy Will We Leave?

"The workshop prompts the question: is our generation interested in developing a legacy that creates cleaner water and leaves healthier fish for our grandchildren to catch and consume, or do we want to "push the envelope" of the biological food chain to the limits by stocking more fish, than the lake can now support?

Past experience in Lake Michigan has shown that when a fish population "crashes," the recovery is not a quick process and could well last a decade or longer," Ververs notes.

For More Information

For more information on New York Sea Grant's Great Lakes program, including sportfisheries development, aquatic nuisances and invasives, boating and marina facilities, coastal erosion, coastal tourism, sand dunes, underwater cultural resources, Native American Lands Initiative, and youth education, visit www.nysgextension.org

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