Lake Superior Ecosystem, 1929–1998: Simulating Alternative Hypotheses for Recruitment Failure of Lake Herring (Coregonus Artedi)
The Lake Superior ecosystem, which has suffered severe impacts from exotic invasion, overfishing, and enhancement, provides an excellent setting in which to test the ability of ecosystem models to reveal ecosystem management conflicts. Overfishing and invasion by exotic sea lamprey caused lake-wide collapses of the dominant piscivore (lake trout) and zooplanktivore (whitefish and lake herring) species. Although lake trout recovered to historical levels, lake herring continue to exhibit little evidence of compensatory improvements in juvenile survival. We developed an ecosystem simulation model of the Lake Superior fish community (1929–1998) to determine the relative impacts of lake-trout enhancement programs, fish community dynamics, and fishing mortality on the lake-herring population. We simulated four alternative hypotheses as potential explanations for lack of compensatory recruitment of juvenile lake herring: strong and weak predation by lake trout and strong and weak predation by rainbow smelt. Of these four, the strong-smelt-predation hypothesis was most consistent with biomass estimates and survey data for lake herring. Lake trout appear to control abundance of smelt and in turn exert a positive influence on lake herring recruitment. Therefore, fisheries for lake trout are potentially in conflict with the recovery of a valuable lake-herring population and fishery.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 May 2004
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