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Lake Ontario and Lake Erie Biomonitoring Program

Kristen Holeck, Chris Hotaling, Lars Rudstam (Cornell University), Jana Lantry, Mike Connerton, Chris Legard, Steve Lapan , Dave Lemon, Web Pearsall and Jim Markham (NYSDEC),  Brian Lantry, Brian Weidel and Brian O’Malley (USGS); and Zy Biesinger (USFWS). (Funded by NYSDEC)

 Ecosystem-based management is an approach to managing environmental issues that considers how an ecosystem functions as a whole rather than focusing on a single species or issue in isolation. In Lake Ontario, managers have used an ecosystem-based approach to managing the productivity and availability of alewife and stocked salmonids since the end of the 1980s. In support of this approach, the New York State DEC initiated the Lake Ontario Biomonitoring Program (BMP) in 1995 to evaluate the condition of lower trophic levels in offshore, nearshore, and embayment areas of Lake Ontario. Lower trophic level components (nutrients, phytoplankton, and zooplankton) are indicators of ecosystem health and determine the lake’s ability to support prey fish upon which both wild and stocked salmonids depend. In 2016, this project was expanded to include zooplankton samples from the New York waters of Lake Erie. The BMP is a collaborative project that, in 2019, included the NYDEC Cape Vincent Fisheries Research Station (Lake Ontario), NYDEC Dunkirk Fisheries Research Station (Lake Erie), regional NYDEC staff at Watertown, Cortland, and Avon; the USFWS Lower Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office; the USGS–Lake Ontario Biological Station; and Cornell University. Two reports, one for Lake Erie and one for Lake Ontario, were completed in 2021. We are also working on comparisons of these data with the GLNPO project (Figary in preparation).