Fenske Fellowship: Learning the Ins and Outs of Lake Whitefish Management in the Upper Great Lakes

STUDENT ANGLE Marissa L. Hammond Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, Manly Miles Building, 1405 South Harrison Rd., East Lansing, MI 48823. E-mail: [email protected]

lakewhitefish

Credit: maine.gov

The project that I worked on during my 2013-2014 Janice Lee Fenske fellowship provided me with a unique opportunity to improve our understanding and management of Lake Whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis populations in the upper Great Lakes. Lake Whitefish is the most important commercial species in the upper Great Lakes, with an average annual catch valued at US$16.6 million from 1994 to 2004 (Ebener et al. 2008). Lake Whitefish are cooperatively managed according to the terms of the 2000 Consent Decree, a court-ordered agreement among the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and five Native American tribes that is intended to ensure the sustainability of Lake Whitefish populations. The decree dictates that populations will be managed through harvest quotas that are estimated annually based on catch-at-age models and size limits (Modeling Subcommittee, Technical Fisheries Committee 2013). These models forecast recruitment based on a stock-recruitment function without including empirical data on prerecruits or factors such as variation in food abundance or temperature (Brown 1991). Part of my fellowship was to determine whether prerecruit information could be used to refine the catch-at-age models that estimate harvest quotas. I did this by comparing larval densities of two cohorts to the adult abundances of the same cohorts as they recruited to the commercial fishery. This analysis allowed me to determine
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