Lake Trout Suppression and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Recovery:  

It’s About More than Just Fish

                                           Gill netting for lake trout

Summer 2013 lake trout netting efforts are in high gear on Yellowstone Lake, and the latest reports indicate that the lake trout suppression and Yellowstone cutthroat trout recovery program is making headway: As of last week, more than 172,000 lake trout have been eliminated.

Eliminating non-native lake trout -- which have been a factor in the demise of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout -- is about much more than just saving a fish species.Yellowstone National Park officials have long known that the integrity of the surrounding ecosystem is dependent upon a healthy Yellowstone cutthroat trout population, and over the past year, new scientific studies continue to demonstrate the importance of these native species.

For example, many species of birds and animals depend upon the cutthroat to one degree or another for their own existence. A recent study reported that the loss of Yellowstone cutthroat trout, a traditional food source for grizzlies, is resulting in increased predation upon elk calves by bears. This increased predation is negatively affecting elk numbers both inside and outside of the Park.

That’s not all. A University of Wyoming study on river otters has documented a decline in their numbers as they have had to find food alternatives to Yellowstone cutthroats. Non-native lake trout are not a food substitute for species reliant on cutthroats because they live too deep in the lake to be accessible. Carrington Island lake trout egg romoval

Restoring balance to this unique ecosystem is a multi-year commitment, and more nets are in the water this year over past years, as gill netting and trap netting boats operate with an expanded fleet.  Experimental lake trout suppression studies will be initiated this fall to remove lake trout ova from identified spawning areas using high pressure suction pumps and electricity. Experts predict that eliminating 50% or more of the population for 4 -5 consecutive years should promote a population crash of these non-native fish.

 

Lake trout suppression and Yellowstone cutthroat trout recovery by the numbers:

Twenty-nine pound lake trout, 2013First 15 Years: 500,000 lake trout caught and eliminated

2011 and 2012: 525,000 lake trout caught and eliminated

2013: 172,000 in the first six weeks of the season

If you’d like to support this effort which Superintendent Dan Wenk has identified as the Park’s number one natural resource priority, contact Ken Barrett, Campaign Manager, Native Fish Conservation Program at kbarrett@ypf.org

To receive mobile updates on Yellowstone cutthroat trout restoration, please text the word cutthroat to 51555.

Photos: Top, trap nettting lake trout for removal from Yellowstone Lake; middle, lake trout egg removal from Carrington Island spawning site; bottom, a netting crew member hefts a 29-pound lake trout caught in late June, 2013. Photos courtesy YNP photo archives.

 

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