9/28/1999 -- -- Lake Superior's unique "coaster" brook trout received top billing from some of North America's top fisheries conservation organizations today. Trout Unlimited (TU), TU Canada and Great Lakes United (GLU) announced a new partnership aimed at recovering Lake Superior's coaster brook trout at the International Joint Commission's Great Lake's Environmental Expo in Milwaukee.
Known as "coasters" to local residents because of their preference for near-shore lake habitat, this unique life history form of brook trout once provided a highly valued and productive fishery along shoreline areas and in tributary streams that supported spawning populations. Today, coaster brook trout are defined as "those spending part of their life in the Great Lakes" and only a few remnant populations remain. Three viable U.S. populations are known to exist (two on Isle Royale and one in the Salmon-Trout River located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula). The Canadian lakeshore supports slightly more populations including the best population in the basin (Nipigon River). The dramatic decline of the coaster brook trout is believed to be due to habitat loss and over harvest.
"The restoration of the coaster brook trout offers more than just a chance for anglers to catch trophy size brook trout," stated Ed Michael, Trout Unlimited National Resource Board Director. "It is part of the natural diversity of Lake Superior and is an indicator of the environmental health of the Superior basin. We have everything to gain by trying to restore this great natural symbol of Lake Superior "
Trout Unlimited's all-volunteer National Resource Board passed a resolution to 'fully support rehabilitation and restoration of the native coaster brook trout in Lake Superior and its tributary water" in response to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (Lake Superior Committee's) recent approval of "A Brook Trout Rehabilitation Plan for Lake Superior. TU went on to call on all citizens and government bodies (including federal, provincial, First Nation, and native American) of the Lake Superior Basin to move quickly to implement rehabilitation and recovery plans of the native coaster brook trout to the waters and tributaries of Lake Superior.
"The brook trout rehabilitation plan notes that over 100 Lake Superior tributaries supported coaster brook trout runs in the 1800's," noted Charles Gauvin, President of Trout Unlimited, the world's largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. "Today, there are only a few populations remaining. If we don't act now, there is little reason to believe that they will exist in the future."
The state of Michigan has responded quickly to the coaster brook trout situation and recently announced a plan to reintroduce the fish on its Upper Peninsula. Next month, TU members will assist the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with experimental plantings of coasters in Sevenmile Creek, and the Gratitot, Little Carp, Hurricane, and the Mosquito Rivers. The United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will be a cooperator in the effort and also has shown considerable leadership in other areas such as genetics research and broodstock development which will be used to provide fish for future reintroduction efforts.
Hopes for a broader lakewide coaster restoration effort were boosted when Trout Unlimited Canada and Great Lakes United pledged their support for future efforts.
"Coaster brook trout from the Canadian side of Lake Superior are legendary," stated Bob Redgate, Chairman of Trout Unlimited Canada. "The Nipigon River produced the world record brook trout. Trout Unlimited Canada supports an international rehabilitation and restoration initiative. With our combined efforts, coaster brook trout will once again be prevalent in Lake Superior and its tributaries."
"The coaster brook trout is a unique and valuable component of the natural biodversity of Lake Superior," states Margaret Wooster, Executive Director of Great Lakes United. "In June of 1999, our coalition passed a resolution to support the restoration and rehabilitation of coaster brook trout to Lake Superior. As long as a few populations still persist, we have an obligation to make a full effort to bring them back."
Trout Unlimited is the world's largest trout and salmon conservation organization. TU's members, more than 100,000 strong, are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.
Great Lakes United is a coalition of US, Canadian and First Nation's groups dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River ecosystem. GLU's Habitat and biodversity Task Force oversees the work of developing strategies to restore self-sustaining, diverse, native communities. The coalition consists of over 150 member organizations representing the environmental, labor and social grassroots, businesses, governmental agencies and academia.
Trout Unlimited Canada is a not for profit organization dedicated to the conservation and wise use of Canada's coldwater resources through the undertaking of habitat restoration and enhancement, research, management and public education.