Students team up with Michigan Sea Grant to protect native fish

A threatened fish called the River Redhorse is the latest subject of the Native Fish Heroes poster series.

The River Redhorse suffers from a case of mistaken identity. Even though it is a native fish that requires clean flowing rivers, many people mistake the River Redhorse for invasive carp or other native suckers that can tolerate polluted water. In fact, the River Redhorse is listed as a threatened species in Michigan and is only found in a handful of large, rocky rivers.

Students participating in the Lakeshore Environmental Education Program (LEEP) at Walden Green Montessori School in Ferrysburg had a chance to get to know the River Redhorse this spring. They learned how to identify closely-related species and teamed up with Michigan Sea Grant to teach others why the River Redhorse is so rare.

Guilt by association

The River Redhorse is one of six species of redhorse sucker living in Michigan waters. Some of the other species are very common, and fishing regulations allow for unlimited harvest of other sucker species using a variety of gear including spears, bows and arrows, certain types of nets, and hook-and-line. Suckers are bony but very good to eat when canned or ground. Unfortunately, the River Redhorse is easily mistaken for other species and is sometimes harvested along with other sucker species.

Worse yet, some people mistakenly believe River Redhorse are a harmful or invasive species. They get to be fairly big (over 30 inches long) and could be confused with invasive common carp. Perhaps this is one reason why River Redhorse are sometimes left on the bank to rot.

River Redhorse need clean-swept rocky areas to spawn. Many large rivers suffer from pollution in the form of silt and sand that washes in from eroding banks, city streets, and agricultural land. This “nonpoint source” pollution can smother eggs and also harms native filter-feeding mussels. The River Redhorse feeds heavily on native mussels, and the decline of mussels in many areas of the eastern United States may be one reason for the rarity of River Redhorse.

Big rivers are also subject to development for flood control, navigation, and hydro power.  Channelization removes important shallow-water spawning area and dams restrict the movement of fish. This can block River Redhorse from reaching historic spawning grounds, but some dams also restrict the movement of harmful invasive species.

Even though River Redhorse are not common anywhere, there are three Michigan river systems that still provide good habitat and support breeding populations: the Muskegon River, St. Joseph River, and Grand River.

Students at Walden Green attend school near the mouth of the Grand River, one of the last places in Michigan to find River Redhorse. By highlighting threats and suggesting ways that people can help to keep our rivers clean, the students hope to help protect this local treasure. They even came up with a “Rockin’ River Redhorse” theme poster, which emphasizes the fish’s need for clean, rocky habitat.

The River Redhorse poster is the second in Michigan Sea Grant’s Native Fish Heroes poster series. The Lake Sturgeon was the first poster created, and other teachers around Michigan have expressed interest in tackling Cisco, Smallmouth Bass, and Burbot. If you teach at a K-12 school and have a local connection to one of our fascinating native fish species, contact Michigan Sea Grant for additional details.

Download poster Big rivers, big problems

Seafood HACCP Training Course

Event Date: 12/5/2017
End Date: 12/7/2017

A Seafood Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Training Course that is being coordinated by Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission will be held December 5-7, 2017 at Ojibwa Casino Resort in Baraga, Michigan. All fish processors are required to take this training if they are not currently certified.

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) consists of identifying safety hazards, determining where they occur, monitoring these points and recording the results. HACCP involves day-to-day monitoring of critical control points by production employees. The Seafood HACCP regulation that is enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is based on the belief that commercial fish processors can understand the food safety hazards of their products and take reasonable steps to control them. Commercial fish processors are required either to obtain formal training for one or more of their own employees or to hire trained independent contractors to perform the HACCP functions.

The HACCP regulation requires processors to keep extensive records of processing and sanitation at their facilities.

Those completing the course will receive a Seafood Alliance HACCP Certificate issued through the Association of Food and Drug Officials that is recognized by agencies regulating fish processors.

For registration information please contact Ron Kinnunen at kinnune1@msu.edu

Evidence of prehistoric caribou hunters found below Lake Huron

Research continues this summer on a series of targets on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in the lake.

Diver and MSU alum Tyler Schultz and 'Jake' the ROV collect samples in central Lake Huron.

Diver and MSU alum Tyler Schultz and ‘Jake’ the ROV collect samples in central Lake Huron. Photo: John O’Shea | University of Michigan Museum of Anthropologial Archaeology

In 2009 a paper was published in the National Academy of Sciences on “Evidence of Early Hunters below the Great Lakes” by researchers John O’Shea (curator of Great Lakes Archaeology at the University Of Michigan Museum Of Anthropological Archaeology) and Guy Meadows (Director of the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University.) These researchers found evidence of human activity on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge in Lake Huron. This ridge during an extreme low-water phase would have provided a land causeway across the middle of modern Lake Huron linking northern Michigan with central Ontario.

The post-glacial history of the Great Lakes is characterized by a series of high and low water periods. The most extreme low-water period is referred to as the Lake Stanley stage in Lake Huron which occurred 7,000 to 11,500 years ago with lake levels 230 to 328 feet below modern lake levels. During this time period the Lake Huron basin contained two lakes separated by a ridge or causeway extending northwest to southeast across the basin from the area of Presque Isle, Mich., to Point Clark in Ontario, now known as the Alpena-Amberley Ridge.

Human occupation in the upper Great Lakes is associated with the drop in water level to the Lake Stanley stage and they inhabited an environment that was colder and drier than present with spruce-dominated forests. The researchers found that the problem in investigating these earlier time periods is that intact sites of early human occupation are extremely rare and the critical evidence exists beneath Lake Huron. Thus the researchers’ utilized surface-towed side scan sonar and remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) to determine whether human occupation sites were present on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge beneath Lake Huron.

The survey indicated evidence for the existence of hunting structures and human activity associated with the ridge and demonstrated a series of features that were consistent in form, construction, and placement with known caribou hunting structures. Stone constructions, such as caribou drive lanes, hunting blinds, and habitation sites of the kind seen in sub-arctic regions appear to be preserved on the lake bottom.

More recent research published in 2016 in Geoarchaeology by Elizabeth Sonnenburg (Stantec Consulting Ltd.) and John O’Shea who used ROV and diver surveys to get a closer look at the structures, investigate lake bottom conditions and visibility, and map the structures at close range. In addition sediment samples were collected for paleoenvironmental analysis. From this research a series of indicators, including distinct microfossil assemblages (such as species only found in sphagnum moss and boggy arctic ponds), rooted trees (tamarack and spruce), and charcoal (8,000–9,000 years old) revealed a series of microenvironments that are consistent with a subarctic climate.

Research that was led by O’Shea and published in a 2014 National Academy of Sciences paper revealed a newly discovered caribou drive lane which was the most complex hunting structure found to date beneath the Great Lakes. The drive lane site and its artifacts provided insight into the social and seasonal organization of prehistoric caribou hunting. When combined with environmental and simulation studies it was found that different seasonal strategies were used by early hunters on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge. Autumn hunting was carried out by small groups and spring hunts were conducted by larger groups of cooperating hunters.

This summer O’Shea will be leading a research project utilizing a submarine to ground-truth (determine facts by examining the ground for targets revealed by remote sensing) a series of targets, such as those described here, to further confirm their cultural origin and age.

Michigan Sea Grant’s HACCP safety programming efforts have helped hundreds of businesses

Programs include Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) for Seafood Safety, and Preventing the Movement of Aquatic Invasive Species.

The Magic Springs trout production facility helps contribute to the 40 million pounds of trout production per year in Idaho.

The Magic Springs trout production facility helps contribute to the 40 million pounds of trout production per year in Idaho. Photo: Ron Kinnunen | Michigan Sea Grant

Michigan Sea Grant Extension has served as the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center representative on the planning committee for the National Aquaculture Extension Conference for the last two years. At the recent conference in Boise, Idaho, Michigan Sea Grant coordinated a Great Lakes session and presented on its Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programming efforts with the commercial fishing, aquaculture, and baitfish industries.

Seafood HACCP is a system for food safety control and is preventive, not reactive. It is a management tool used to protect the food supply against biological, chemical, and physical hazards. HACCPs emphasize process control and concentrate on the points in the process that are critical to the safety of the product. Every fish processor is required to have and implement a written HACCP plan whenever a hazard analysis reveals one or more food-safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur. A HACCP plan is specific to each processing location and each species of fish and type of fishery product.

Some exceptions

The Seafood HACCP regulation does not apply to the harvest or transport of fish or fishery products, or the operation of retail establishments. Practices such as heading, eviscerating, or freezing intended solely to prepare fish for holding on a harvest vessel are also exempt from the regulation.

Aquaculture practices exempt from the HACCP regulation include harvesting and boxing unprocessed fish on ice for immediate transportation, live fish hauling to various markets, custom processing the fish directly for the consumer who does not resell it, and fee fish operations.

More than 650 benefit from training

Since the inception of the Seafood HACCP regulation, Michigan Sea Grant Extension has conducted 25 three-day Seafood HACCP courses in the Great Lakes region training 653 commercial fishers, processors, and aquaculturists. More than 200 follow-up visits to fish processing facilities have been conducted to assist with the implementation of HACCP plans. The benefits of Seafood HACCP has resulted in fish processors developing value-added fishery products which increases their revenues.

Aquatic invasive species HACCP training offered, too

Several years ago Michigan Sea Grant and Minnesota Sea Grant developed an Aquatic Invasive Species-HACCP (AIS-HACCP) program following the principles of the Seafood HACCP program. Aquatic invasive species can invade and disrupt baitfish and aquaculture operations as they have been identified as a pathway for the spread of AIS. The hazards that have been identified in the AIS-HACCP program include AIS fish and other vertebrates, AIS invertebrates, AIS plants, and fish diseases.

AIS-HACCP training materials were developed and Michigan Sea Grant Extension worked with the baitfish and aquaculture industry representatives on training programs and developing AIS-HACCP plans specific to their operations. Michigan Sea Grant Extension has conducted over 40 AIS-HACCP one-day training programs in the North Central Region of the United States.

New video shows anglers how to remove stomachs for fish diet study

Researchers are trying to learn more about what trout, salmon, and walleye are eating in lakes Huron and Michigan. Anglers can help by donating stomachs from their catch.

Fisheries scientists around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are working on a project led by Dr. Brian Roth at Michigan State University to understand what, and how much, different species of fish are eating. Invasive species such as round goby have damaged the environment, but they also provide food for some gamefish. Quagga mussels have reduced the amount of food in open water areas, but they also provide a food source for round goby.

Last year, much debate focused on alewife, an open water baitfish. This new study should provide better information regarding how many alewife are being consumed by different species including Chinook salmon, coho salmon, Atlantic salmon, lake trout, steelhead, brown trout, and walleye. Some species, such as Chinook salmon, rarely switch to other food sources. On the other hand, fish such as lake trout, brown trout, and walleye readily switch to feeding on bottom-dwelling fish like round goby. Sometimes.

This comprehensive effort will attempt to figure out when and where certain gamefish take advantage of round goby, alewife, and other food sources including invertebrates like opossum shrimp and spiny water flea. In order to get an adequate number of fish from all seasons of the year and all regions of the two lakes, scientists are hoping anglers can pitch in and contribute stomachs for the study. 

How to participate

  • Watch this short video to learn how to collect stomachs. It is very important not to bias the study by collecting only full (or only empty) stomachs.
  • If you are collecting stomachs after a fishing trip, be sure to collect ALL stomachs from each species that you are collecting.
  • It is not necessary to collect stomachs from every fishing trip you take, but stomachs from 2-3 trips per month would be very helpful.

What, when, and where to collect

  • What: Stomachs from all trout and salmon species, and walleye.
  • When: Now through the end of the 2019 fishing season.
  • Where: All waters of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, including large bays like Saginaw Bay and Green Bay, but not including rivers or drowned rivermouth lakes.

What to focus on

Creel census clerks with Michigan DNR, biotechs funded by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and US Geological Survey biologists will be working to collect stomachs at access sites and in conjunction with major fishing tournaments. Anglers can help these agencies to fill in the gaps by contributing stomachs from less-common species, early- and late-season catches, and fish caught at night or in regions that do not get as much coverage by agency personnel.

Some ideas to focus on include:

  • early-season brown trout
  • Green Bay walleye
  • all species in northern Lake Michigan from Grand Traverse Bay north to Manistique
  • mid- to late-summer salmon and trout from St. Joseph north to Saugatuck

All species from all areas of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are appreciated, but these focus areas are particularly important because angler-submitted stomachs may make a critical difference in providing enough stomachs to meet sample size targets.

Materials for stomach collection include:

Data tags, list of freezer drop sites, video and full instructions are also available at www.michiganseagrant.org/diet.

2017 State of the Bay Conference

Event Date: 9/27/2017

Saginaw Bay will be the topic of conversation at the 2017 State of the Bay Conference. Held on September 27, 2017, in Bay City, the one-day conference will feature activities related to the restoration, conservation, and protection of Saginaw Bay. Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educator Kip Cronk will moderate one of the sessions. Learn what the communities around the Bay and throughout the 22-county watershed are doing to encourage public access, economic development, environmental education, and watershed management. 

Early-bird registration is available through August 25.

Click here to read the event agenda, register for the conference, and more.

Healthy Watersheds, Healthy Communities Teacher Training

Event Date: 8/16/2017
End Date: 8/17/2017

The Healthy Watersheds, Healthy Communities Program is offering two training sessions to engage middle and high school teachers in place-based stewardship education.  

The training can help teachers:

  • Teach students about their local Great Lakes watershed
  • Explore watershed health and identify stressors to local ecosystems
  • Learn about coastal wetlands and their plants and animals
  • Identify potential stewardship opportunities for students
  • Get students learning outside!

Separate training events will be held on August 16 and 17:

  • August 16, 2017 — Lake Erie Metropark Marshland Museum (Wayne County) PDF
  • August 17, 2017 — River Raisin Institute (Monroe) PDF

Space is limited, so register by August 1 to reserve your seat! Contact Daria Hyde at hydeda@msu.edu or (517) 284-6189. Click on the PDF links above for more details.

Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Consortium Conference

Event Date: 10/12/2017
End Date: 10/13/2017

Michigan Sea Grant announces two Knauss Fellowship finalists

In 2018, Washington, D.C., will gain two more Michiganders. Michigan Sea Grant is pleased to announce that two candidates from Michigan have been selected as finalists for the 2018 Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. This prestigious fellowship places graduate students from around the nation with host organizations in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Knauss Fellows get an up-close-and-personal look at the processes and offices that guide U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resource use and policies.

Interested graduate students submit applications through their nearest Sea Grant program, which forwards a selection of candidates to the National Sea Grant Office. Out of 128 applications forwarded by Sea Grant programs in 2017, 67 finalists have been selected.

Janet Hsiao

Both of Michigan’s Knauss Fellowship finalists hail from Michigan State University (MSU) graduate programs. Janet Hsiao will soon finish her M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013. While at MSU, she has worked with Dana Infante to study the interactions of landscape, coastal habitats, and ecological communities. Janet is no stranger to Washington, D.C., having interned there at the Trust for Public Land in 2014.

Lisa Peterson

The second finalist, Lisa Peterson, is pursuing her Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU. Prior to this program, she received her B.S. and M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife, also at MSU. She has been working with Mike Jones to study yellow perch stocking in Lake Erie.

Now that the Knauss finalists have been selected, all 67 will congregate in Washington, D.C., this November for Placement Week. Through a process one former Fellow describes as “grueling,” finalists will meet with representatives from an array of prospective host offices in the legislative and executive branches. Previous Knauss Fellows from Michigan have worked in various offices within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Senate.

After the finalists and hosts have selected each other, the finalists will be granted Fellow status and prepare to begin their year-long fellowships in February 2018.

Knauss Fellows from Michigan — along with recipients of other Michigan Sea Grant-related fellowships — contribute to a blog that captures their experiences, insights, and takeaways. Read posts from current and previous fellows here. Learn more about Michigan Sea Grant’s graduate fellowship opportunities here.

This entry was posted in News.

May, June showers bring higher Great Lake water levels for summer 2017

Great Lake levels are up with Lake Ontario reaching an all-time high.

Lake Ontario reached an all-time record high in May 2017, resulting in impacts to coastal homeowners and more. High Water Event, New York. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs

Lake Ontario reached an all-time record high in May 2017, resulting in impacts to coastal homeowners and more. High Water Event, New York. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs

Have you seen the news on high lake levels on Lake Ontario? Lake Ontario reached all-time record highs in May 2017, resulting in significant coastal community, road, infrastructure and homeowner impacts. Currently the weekly Lake Ontario levels show Lake Ontario is about 30 inches higher than this time last year and 28” above the long term average in June. Colleagues with New York Sea Grant Extension are aiding in this crisis, using a scientific survey to determine impacts of the high water levels. The large rise can be attributed to very high precipitation on the basin, getting almost double the average precipitation as normal.

Back in Michigan, significant rain storms happened in late June 2017, particularly impacting the Saginaw Bay area. The United States Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Lakes Michigan-Huron rose a full 6 inches from April to May during the spring rise and had above average water supplies coming into the system. Lakes Michigan-Huron are forecast to be on the high side of average, about 15 inches above the long term average.

Lake Superior also rose about 6 inches during seasonal rise in May, being about 8 inches above the long term average and about 2” higher than in 2016. Precipitation and net basin supply was above average, with outflows above average through the St. Marys River.

Lake Erie is about 19” above its long term average and 9” above May 2016 levels and the most recent predictions are that it has reached the peak water level for 2017 and will decline about 3” over the next month.

As we head further into summer 2017, visitors to the beaches and boat launch ramps will notice these somewhat higher lake levels. Other great tools to check lake levels include the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory’s  online Great Lakes Water Level Dashboard.

It is amazing to think back of just about 5 years ago to the fall/winter of 2012/2013. Lake Michigan/Huron actually reached the record low level ever recorded in January 2013, in close to 100 years of accurate measurements. The strong rebound from these record lows is unprecedented in our history of measurements.

This summer season is well upon us and it will be interesting to see if levels follow the typical pattern of seasonal decline or if strong precipitation drives them further up. No matter what, be careful in all your water access – swim with flotation devices; be extra careful at launch ramps; and enjoy the dynamic coast of these freshwater seas.