Core Question

How can cisco restoration efforts be tailored to fit the needs of Lake Michigan stakeholder groups?

Cisco once was the dominant native prey fish in the Great Lakes food webs. Populations plummeted between 1920 and 1970 due to overfishing, habitat loss, and interactions with invasive species. Today, habitat conditions are beginning to improve and key invasive species populations have declined. Fishery managers are now discussing what it might look like to restore cisco populations in Lake Michigan.

Though many stakeholder groups are interested in restoring cisco, they disagree on the best approach. Some advocate helping existing remnant populations recover, while others recommend stocking Lake Michigan with young cisco from elsewhere in the Great Lakes region. Still others note that ecological conditions in the lake have changed drastically and question whether cisco would still be viable as a self-sustaining population.

Project description

The research team will use existing data and guided discussions to help stakeholders create a path for cisco restoration in Lake Michigan.

Drawing from existing publications, reports, and databases, the team will pool information about food web dynamics, rearing methods, fishery regulations, and other relevant topics. They will present this information at regular meetings held by charter fishing associations, regional fishery regulators, and Lake Michigan ecosystem managers.

The team also will distribute an electronic survey to key stakeholders involved in, or likely affected by, future cisco management decisions. The survey will allow stakeholders to convey and explain their preferred options for restoration actions.

The compiled research material and survey responses will provide a comprehensive launching point for a pair of stakeholder workshops, which will be the centerpiece of the project. The workshops will introduce participants to the integrated assessment process, deliver compiled background information, identify remaining data gaps, and review restoration strategies and lessons from other fisheries. Then, the research team will facilitate interactive discussions aimed at selecting preferred restoration options and clarifying major considerations embedded in each option. By the end of the workshop, the participants will either:

  • Agree on a recommended course of action, or
  • Identify roots of disagreement that will need to be addressed before recommendations can be made.

Expected outcomes

Through the workshops, the project team will provide a framework for helping managers and the fishing community advance a preferred option for Lake Michigan cisco restoration. Their work will be synthesized into a final report, which will summarize existing research, survey results, notes from the workshops, and a recommended path for future restoration efforts. The report also will include a decision tree, a chart that maps out all decision points and likely outcomes in a decision-making process.

Other deliverables will include fact sheets and informational tools, which will be made available through this website.