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Lake Champlain Fisheries Meeting Summary for November 2003

November 6, 2003

1. Agency roles in lamprey control. (Committee)

A. Increased control commitments by USFWS and VTDFW for New York treatments.

  • Craig Martin expressed the need for the Service to be more involved in sea lamprey control activities beyond lamprey assessment as per New York's request for increased involvement to help offset staffing shortages in the state. The group discussed the Services involvement in past Lake Champlain treatments, the potential of contracting the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for Lake Champlain sea lamprey control, and current trained Federal and State personnel available. It was suggested that the Management Committee forward this issue to the Policy Committee with a recommendation that the Service increase its sea lamprey control commitment.

B. Shared responsibility by the three agencies for lampricide permitting.

  • Eric Palmer gave a brief overview of the Vermont permitting process and problems encountered during the Winooski River permit process in 2003.
  • The Service expressed the desire to be more involved in the treatment permitting processes because the Service is liable in lawsuits alleging violations of State or Federal law, are the lampricide registrants, and sea lamprey control is conducted partly under the Service's environmental impact statement and record of decision authorizing the use of Federal funding and personnel. The group agreed the Service will review draft applications for pesticide application permits and be copied on all permitting related correspondence. This issue will be forwarded to this winter's Policy Committee meeting for further guidance.

C. New staff (VT) and potential new staff (USFWS).

  • Bernie Pientka was introduced. Bernie is the new Vermont fisheries biologist stationed at the Essex Junction district office.
  • Craig informed the group that as a result of recent interview process a selection for the new sea lamprey biologist has been forwarded to the Regional Office.

2. Lake St Catherine alewives. (Martin, Good)

  • The group discussed the alewive environmental assessment report and its selection of the preferred alternative - no action. Leo DeMong (NY) is a member of the AFS Taskforce on Fishery Chemicals and offered his thoughts on the feasibility of a Lake St. Catherine reclamation. The pros and cons of a treatment were discussed. The committee felt that the potential impacts of alewives to the Lake Champlain ecosystem were great enough to warrant revisiting the chemical treatment alternative and it was recommended that Shawn Good lead a tour of reclamation experts around Lake St. Catherine.

3. Alternatives Workgroup. (Martin)

A. Funding proposals for the LCBP (lamprey model, micro-elemental analysis, out of nest egg survival).

  • Ellen Marsden told the group that a study proposal has been submitted to Lake Champlain Sea Grant.
  • Craig Martin identified that three projects have been submitted to the Lake Champlain Basin Program for possible funding through its FY04 budget process.

B. Update on other activities.

  • Craig reported that the Alternatives Work Group has been in contact with an individual on the West Coast interested in obtaining lamprey to sell as cut bait for white sturgeon in California. The Service has had 10 animals tested for pathogens and virology (nothing found) because of concerns of transporting lamprey cross-country. Up to 40 more will be tested by the California Department of Fish and Game. An economic proposal will be submitted by the individual and included in a report on the economic viability of selling sea lamprey for cut bait. This report will be submitted to the Alternatives Workgroup as part of its process to fully evaluate "alternative" sea lamprey control options in Lake Champlain.

4. Results of the deepwater electrofishing; plans for next year. (Nettles)

  • Dave Nettles reported the results of this summers deepwater electrofishing surveys. Preliminary estimates indicate that as many as 500,000 sea lamprey occupy the Saranac delta and 60,000 lamprey may be buried in the Bouquet delta. More survey work is needed on both deltas, especially the Saranac, to determine the extent of lamprey infestation. Dave provided a rough estimate of Bayluscide needed for treating both deltas. The group discussed additional chemical purchase options and how to staff next summers survey work.

5. Sea-run salmon update. (Martin, Nettles)

  • Craig reported that the Sea-run Discussion Group was scheduled to meet on October 28 but had to cancel its meeting because of scheduling conflicts. The Discussion Group will pick a date for their next meeting. The group consists of Pierre Bilodeau, Dr. Donna Parrish, Kevin Kelsey, Dave Nettles, and Craig Martin.

6. Lamprey tagging study update. (Marsden or proxy)

  • Eric Howe provided a summary of the sea lamprey tagging study. In 2001, 2,653 sea lamprey were tagged. Twenty-one tagged lamprey were recovered from 2,272 animals checked. In 2002, 1,472 sea lamprey were tagged and released. No tagged lamprey were recovered from 489 animals checked to date.
  • Leahy appropriation.

A. Status of existing funding relative to chemical needs and other expenditures for 2004. (Chipman)

B. Status of proposed new appropriation. (Tilton/Martin)

  • A request for $700,000 has been submitted to the State Department for sea lamprey control activities. Given the current national issues and the possibility of a prolonged Federal budget process, it is likely that these funds will not be appropriated anytime soon. The group reviewed funds on hand (Brian Chipman provided an unofficial account status). It was agreed that moneys from this account should be spent on the pending dioxin study (~ $5,000) and funding a delta survey crew (~$5-6,000). Bill Schoch will check with the GLFC on options for next years chemical purchase.
  • The group also recognized that the present manner of managing the Leahy funds (purchasing, and account tracking) by Brian via Barb Staples is working well. Brian should continue to get authorization for large expenditures through the Management Committee.
  • Strategic Plan (Martin). Note that: "Fish-community objectives for Lake Superior" was passed out at the last meeting as a possible model for a Champlain strategic plan.
  • Craig emphasized the need for the group to make some progress on the Lake Champlain strategic plan. He provided a suggested outline. It was noted that all drafts should be draft embedded and signed by the drafter. The group will forward comments to Craig by December 15.

7. Sea Grant Leadership program update (Malchoff)

  • Mark Malchoff discussed the great Lakes Fisheries Leadership Institute program and its progress. The objective of the program is to "provide in-depth training to the "next generation" of fishing community leaders ..." . The institute will provide over 10 classroom hours of instruction in aquatic biology, limnology, fisheries science, etc. Some group members were wary of wording in the Anticipated Outcome section - specifically, whether these future leaders would or should act as a citizen advisory group to the Cooperative.

8. Angler Diaries: Possibility of combining present programs into one program (Pientka)

  • The Committee discussed the pros and cons of creating a single diary program. Bernie will review the different Lake Champlain angler diaries as well as other diary programs and the group will then consider the feasibility of such a program change.

9. Adaptive stocking program (Pientka)

  • Bernie stressed the need for developing an adaptive stocking program now before the benefits of sea lamprey control (increased salmonid survival) puts pressure on the lakes ecosystem (impacts to forage base). The difficulty in using the present smelt monitoring program data to recommend future stocking strategies was discussed. It was recommended the issue should be discussed as part of the annual smelt working group meeting this winter. Nick Staats will set up that meeting.
  • Brian noted that 170 and 150 surplus lake trout and steelhead brood stock , respectively, will be planted in the lake this fall. These fish will be marked with blue floy tags.
  • Chet expressed concern that salmon from the Pittsford Federal hatchery may not be as big as hoped. Craig will talk to the hatchery about this.

10. Potential agenda items for a Policy Committee meeting proposed for late January or early February. (Tilton, Martin)

Several agenda items were suggested for the Policy Committee meeting. They were:

  • The Services official role in Lake Champlain sea lamprey control
  • Shared responsibilities for sea lamprey control permits
  • The financial solvency of the Lake Champlain sea lamprey program
  • Should there be a Citizen Advisory Committee to the Management Cooperative
  • Need for a Lake Champlain/GLFC sea lampey MOU
  • Recognition of Lake Champlain Sea Grant as a member of the Fish. Tech. Committee
  • Bill suggested that the Policy Committee be briefly updated on current projects.
  • The final 2002 annual report should be available to them.

11. Upcoming meetings: schedule; note takers; walleye and sturgeon. (Committee)

  • The annual smelt working group and newly established adaptive stocking program working group will tentatively meet on March 22 and 23, 2004.
  • A combination walleye/sturgeon and Technical meeting was scheduled for January 27, 2004.
  • Mark Malchoff will take notes at the next technical Committee meeting.
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