A History of Commercial and Recreational Fisheries in the Laurentian Great Lakes

Monday, August 18, 2014: 3:40 PM
205B (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
John M. Dettmers , Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ann Arbor, MI
Steven J. Cooke , Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
The commercial, aboriginal and recreational fisheries of the Laurentian Great Lakes have undergone substantial change since the mid-1800s.  Extraction of fish for commercial markets increased rapidly in the late 1800s as improved transportation and refrigeration techniques allowed transport of quality foods to major North American markets, and as increasingly mechanized fishing operations occurred.  This trend continued into the 1920s.  During the 1930-1950s, commercial fisheries decimated many major predators, including Lake Trout, Blue Pike, and Walleye.  After World War I, invasive species also contributed to ecosystem changes, such that, by the 1960s, most top predators and many of the uniquely evolved deepwater coregonid complex were extinct or extirpated.  After successful control of Sea Lamprey populations by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, fishery managers began stocking Pacific salmon in the cold Great Lakes to reduce the abundance of invasive Alewife and rehabilitation stocking of Lake Trout.  These efforts generated important recreational fisheries, especially in lakes Huron, Michigan, and Ontario.  Commercial fisheries also rebounded, especially for Lake Whitefish, Walleye, and Yellow Perch.  Although changes in the ecosystem and improved fishery management led to generally stable fisheries, some native fishes, including American Eel, Lake Sturgeon, and Atlantic Salmon, remain species of concern.