A Structured Decision-Making Approach to Fish Stocking in Owasco Lake, NY

Monday, September 9, 2013: 3:20 PM
Fulton (Statehouse Convention Center)
Kelly F. Robinson , Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Ithaca, NY
William L. Fisher , U.S. Geological Survey, New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Natural Resources,Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Owasco Lake, one of the New York Finger Lakes, historically has provided diverse cold-water angling opportunities through fish stocking.  These opportunities included the ability to catch trophy brown trout (Salmo trutto) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Brown and rainbow trout catches have declined since the inception of walleye (Sander vitreus) stocking in the mid-2000s.  New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) fisheries managers believe that current stocking practices have produced suboptimal angling of all species.  NYSDEC wants to change stocking practices to enhance opportunities and stabilize the fish populations.  We are using structured decision making (SDM) to guide NYSDEC’s decision-making process while accounting for the multiple objectives inherent in stocking decisions (ecology, cost, angler values) and uncertainties about Owasco Lake community interactions.  Structured decision making is a defensible, transparent, objective way to make complex decisions by breaking decisions into component parts.  We are developing a decision framework to evaluate stocking strategies that would optimize ecological, financial, and social objectives.  The results of this project will provide NYSDEC with an optimal stocking decision for Owasco Lake as well as an example of how SDM can aid the fisheries section of NYSDEC in future management decisions.