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. Recently the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) re-introduced the bloater, a deep water form of whitefish,
into Lake Ontario. Lake herring occupy and spawn in shallower water than the bloater, and spawn earlier in winter.
"We recognize the economic and ecological importance of Lake Ontario's
fisheries," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "Re-establishing spawning
populations of lake herring in Lake Ontario will diversify the native
prey fish community and add stability to the lake's ecosystem."
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
Steelhead and salmon that feed primarily on invasive alewife can experience
reproductive failure due to a vitamin B deficiency. Predators that feed
on native species like lake herring and bloater are less likely to
experience reproductive failure.
Michael Morencie, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Services Branch of
the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, said, "Ontario has a strong
commitment to restoring native species in Lake Ontario. This stocking
event represents another pivotal benchmark in our efforts to restore
native species diversity in the lake."
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 the New York waters of Lake Ontario,
lake herring historically spawned in Irondequoit Bay, Sodus Bay, the
Sandy Pond, and Chaumont Bay. Research has documented current
lake herring spawning only occurs in Chaumont Bay.
Juvenile lake herring will be stocked this week that originated from
eggs collected by DEC staff in Chaumont Bay during November and December
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