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Changes in Lake Erie fish population suggest lake's recovery

COLUMBUS, Ohio - While a cleaner Lake Erie is seen mostly as good news, it may lead to trade-offs in desirable fish species, a new study suggests.

Historically important sport and commercial fish in the lake - such as smallmouth bass - have increased with the decrease of phosphorus coming into the lake. But other fish species, such as walleye, have begun to decline.

"There are trade-offs to Lake Erie becoming cleaner," said Roy Stein, a study co-author and director of Ohio State University's Aquatic Ecology Lab. According to 1997 figures, Lake Erie's sport fishing industry averaged an annual $243 million.

"We need to decide whether to manage for continued ecosystem rehabilitation or for the success of only a few economically important species," said Stein, who is also a professor in the department of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State.

The research appears in a recent issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

The scientists looked at 28 years' worth of water quality and fish community data gathered from two distinct areas of Lake Erie - the warm, shallow west basin and the cooler, deeper central basin. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife collected the data from 1969 to 1996.

Reductions in phosphorus pollution led to the loss of one-quar
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Contact: Roy Stein
Stein.4@osu.edu
614-292-1613
Ohio State University
4-Sep-2001


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