dead musky

Musky on the Decline in St. Lawrence River – Is an invasive species to blame?

The article below goes into detail with regards to the decline of the Musky population in the St. Lawrence River.  Both Canadian and US biologists are very concerned.  What are they doing to stop the invasive species, the round goby?  The Round Goby is known for eating Musky eggs in spawning areas.  Musky do not stand guard to their eggs like other fish species.  They lay the eggs and leave them.  Notably, in 2017 a study conducted by John Farrell recorded large numbers of Round Goby in known Musky spawning areas and very few juvenile Musky.  

The round goby is a soft-bodied fish with a distinctive black spot on the first dorsal fin. Photo by Dave Jude, University of Michigan

A close-up of a large round goby. The St. Lawrence River has the largest round gobies in the Great Lakes system. Normally, around 8 to 9 inches, a few have been netted up to a foot long in muskie spawning areas.

What are they doing to stop the spread of VHS (aka, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia)?  This virus was brought here as a result of the round gobies who showed up and took control of the river in 2005 thanks to ocean-going freighters coming to the US and Canada from Europe.  The St. Lawrence River experienced an large number of mature adult Musky dyeing off from 2005 to 2008 due to this virus.   (Pictured in the cover to this story).

Currently underway is a long-term experiment where scientists have taken eggs from captive St. Lawrence River muskies and raised them at a hatchery on Governors Island.  A total of 6,000 fingerling muskies were introduced to the St. Lawrence River system at 50 spawning areas in 2017 and 2019.  This year more than 38,000 advanced fry were introduced into the system.  The immature musky have been tagged and will allow scientists to follow them as they mature.  First goal, are the fish still vulnerable to VHS?  Lastly, the return of these musky, once mature, to the spawning areas to reproduce in 6 to 8 years time.

Muskie spawning areas that researchers are monitoring on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the St. Lawrence River.

John Farrell stressed that the goal of this stocking program is to encourage natural preproduction of Musky.  This effort and others like it needs to be a conservation priority.  He and his team are pulling out all the stops.  

 

A very interesting article to be read HERE! 

 

NT

Gregg Thomas

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