Pacific salmon (genus Oncorhynchus) are a valuable resource, both within their native range in the North Pacific rim and in the Great Lakes basin. Understanding their value from a biological and economic perspective in the Great Lakes, however, requires an understanding of changes in the ecosystem and of management actions that have been taken to promote system stability, integrity, and sustainable fisheries. Pacific salmonine introductions to the Great Lakes are comprised mainly of Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead and have accounted for 421, 177, and 247 million fish, respectively, stocked during 1966-2007. Stocking of Pacific salmonines has been effective in substantially reducing exotic prey fish abundances in several of the Great Lakes (e.g., lakes Michigan, Huron, and Ontario). The goal of our evaluation was to highlight differences in management strategies and perspectives across the basin, and to evaluate policies for Pacific salmonine management in the Great Lakes. Currently, a potential conflict exists between Pacific salmonine management and native fish rehabilitation goals because of the desire to sustain recreational fisheries and to develop self-sustaining populations of stocked Pacific salmonines in the Great Lakes. We provide evidence that suggests Pacific salmonines have not only become naturalized to the food webs of the Great Lakes, but that their populations (specifically Chinook salmon) may be fluctuating in concert with specific prey (i.e., alewives) whose populations are changing relative to environmental conditions and ecosystem disturbances. Remaining questions, however, are whether or not “natural” fluctuations in predator and prey provide enough “stability” in the Great Lakes food webs, and even more importantly, would a choice by managers to attempt to reduce the severity of predator-prey oscillations be antagonistic to native fish restoration efforts. We argue that, on each of the Great Lakes, managers are pursuing appropriate goals, managing the aquatic resources of the lakes for the greatest public good, given the variability in conditions and likelihood for success specific to each lake.
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