A synthesis of cisco recovery in lake superior: Implications for native fish rehabilitation in the Laurentian Great Lakes

Jason D. Stockwell, Mark P. Ebener, Jeff A. Black, Owen T. Gorman, Thomas R. Hrabik, Ronald E. Kinnunen, William P. Mattes, Jason K. Oyadomari, Stephen T. Schram, Donald R. Schreiner, Michael J. Seider, Shawn P. Sitar, Daniel L. Yule

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Populations of cisco Coregonus artedi in the Laurentian Great Lakes supported large-scale commercial fisheries and were the primary forage of piscivores during the first half of the 20th century. However, by 1970 populations had collapsed in all of the lakes. Since then, ciscoes have staged a recovery in Lake Superior. In this synthesis, we describe the status of ciscoes in Lake Superior during 1970-2006 and provide a comprehensive review of their ecology. Better understanding of age estimation techniques, application of hydroacoustic and midwater trawl sampling, and compilation of long-term data sets have advanced our understanding of the species. Management agencies contemplating rehabilitation of cisco populations should recognize that (1) knowledge of cisco ecology and population dynamics is increasing; (2) ciscoes are long-lived; (3) Great Lakes populations are probably composed of both shallow-water and deepwater spawning forms; (4) large year-classes can be produced from small adult stocks; (5) large variation in year-class strength is probably intrinsic to Great Lakes populations; (6) despite the longevity and early maturity of ciscoes, stocks can be overfished because large year-classes are produced infrequently; (7) regional environmental factors appear to play a large role in reproductive success; and (8) rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax are likely to have a negative effect on cisco recruitment under certain conditions. A topdown approach for rehabilitating lake trout Salvelinus namaycush in Lake Superior probably benefited cisco recovery through lake trout predation on invasive rainbow smelt populations. We argue that managing for populations of exotic alewives Alosa pseudoharengus to support popular recreational fisheries of exotic Pacific salmonids in the other Great Lakes conflicts with stocking efforts to rehabilitate native lake trout in those lakes. If native fish rehabilitation is a serious and primary goal for management agencies in the Great Lakes basin, we propose that an ecosystem-based approach to modifying the environment for the benefit of native fish species (i.e., decimation or eradication of invasive species) is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-652
Number of pages27
JournalNorth American Journal of Fisheries Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2009


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