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Response of non-native lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) to 15 years of harvest in Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park

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Introduced lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) threaten to extirpate native Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) in the 34 000 ha Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park, USA. Suppression (and eventual eradication) of the lake trout population is deemed necessary for the conservation of Yellowstone cutthroat trout. A US National Park Service gill-netting program removed nearly 450 000 lake trout from Yellowstone Lake from 1995 through 2009. We examined temporal variation in individual growth, body condition, length and age at maturity, fecundity, mortality, and population models to assess the efficacy of the lake trout suppression program. Population metrics did not indicate overharvest despite more than a decade of fish removal. The current rate of population growth is positive; however, it is lower than it would be in the absence of lake trout suppression. Fishing effort needs to increase above observed levels to reduce population growth rate below replacement. Additionally, high sensitivity of population growth rate to reproductive vital rates indicates that increasing fishing mortality for sexually mature lake trout may increase the effectiveness of suppression. Lake trout suppression in Yellowstone Lake illustrates the complexities of trying to remove an apex predator to restore a relatively large remote lentic ecosystem with a simple fish assemblage.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: US Geological Survey, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University, P.O. Box 173460, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA. 2: US National Park Service, Center for Resources, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA.

Publication date: December 23, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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