Fish community change in Lake Superior, 1970-2000

Charles R. Bronte, Mark P. Ebener, Donald R. Schreiner, David S. DeVault, Michael M. Petzold, Douglas A Jensen, Carl Richards, Steven J. Lozano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


Changes in Lake Superior's fish community are reviewed from 1970 to 2000. Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) stocks have increased substantially and may be approaching ancestral states. Lake herring (Coregonus artedi) have also recovered, but under sporadic recruitment. Contaminant levels have declined and are in equilibrium with inputs, but toxaphene levels are higher than in all other Great Lakes. Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) control, harvest limits, and stocking fostered recoveries of lake trout and allowed establishment of small nonnative salmonine populations. Natural reproduction supports most salmonine populations, therefore further stocking is not required. Nonnative salmonines will likely remain minor components of the fish community. Forage biomass has shifted from exotic rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) to native species, and high predation may prevent their recovery. Introductions of exotics have increased and threaten the recovering fish community. Agencies have little influence on the abundance of forage fish or the major predator, siscowet lake trout, and must now focus on habitat protection and enhancement in nearshore areas and prevent additional species introductions to further restoration. Persistence of Lake Superior's native deepwater species is in contrast to other Great Lakes where restoration will be difficult in the absence of these ecologically important fishes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1552-1574
Number of pages23
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003


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