|Yellowstone Lake - Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Status January 3, 2012|
The Yellowstone cutthroat trout (YCT) now occupy
less than 43% of their historical range; in addition,
they are significantly hybridized in 1/3rd of the
The Yellowstone Lake/upper Yellowstone River
system (YL) was once home to an estimated
4,000,000 YCT. It was considered a stronghold for
genetically pure YCT’s and was considered
relatively safe from the impacts of climate change.
In addition, it was considered a Keystone species
for the entire ecosystem; 40 other species are
dependent on YCT.
Lake trout (LT) were officially discovered in 1994.
They are overwhelmingly the most significant threat
of the triple threat to YCT subsistence: lake trout,
drought, and whirling disease.
The NPS has been employing gill netting since 1995
and currently spend $1M annually on the effort. To
date a total of over 800,000 LT have been netted;
220,000 in 2011 alone. The LT population is now
estimated at 3-400,000 adult fish.
The current YCT population is unknown; but is
certainly no more than 10% of historical, probably
<5%, and may be as low as 1-2%.
The YCT population in this system cannot be lost;
and need not be lost. A Scientific Review Panel in
2008 made 4 major recommendations to NPS.
These were renewed in June of this year. Basically,
these recommendations require increased
suppression (netting) of LT, while developing
scientific approaches to population estimates of
both species, movement patterns of LT, LT
spawning site identification by a robust telemetry
study, experimentation with alternative technology
to target LT eggs, and periodic review by the
Major strides have been made in the past few years
by the NPS in their approach. Yellowstone Park
administration changed over the winter with Daniel
Wenk being named Superintendent. A
comprehensive fisheries management EA was
published which sets benchmarks for LT removal
and YCT recovery.
The NPS netting effort was significantly increased
by the hiring of a commercial fishing crew from
Wisconsin. The NPS has formed an alliance with
outside governmental agencies and with NGOs
(Trout Unlimited, Greater Yellowstone Coalition,
National Parks Conservation Association) to tackle
the problem, including the acceptance of financial
support and input. The USGS began a major
research effort in 2008 to identify alternative
suppression technology – targeting recruitment.
Some of that technology is now ready to scale-up.
Electro-shocking of LT eggs was used this past fall
for the first time on Lake Pend Oreille. Results of
that study are due this winter. The most significant
advancement has been the start of a three year
hydro-acoustic telemetry study as a joint effort of
all parties to identify lake trout movement patterns
and spawning beds.
|The movements of these fish are being monitored
by 40 receivers strategically located around the
lake. Data from these fish will be analyzed this
winter and reported February 15th at a meeting of
the Yellowstone Lake working group. This 3 year
telemetry effort requires a significant NPS, USGS
and NGO commitment of money, research time, and
support. The NGOs have committed to raising, as a
minimum, an additional $85,000 by spring 2012 to
support year 2 of the study.
|The money will be spent to buy an additional 100 of
the standard hydro-acoustic tags at $400 each, 50
depth recording hydro-acoustic tags at $750 each,
and the needed supplies. The NGO’s have already
donated $40,000 to get the project started in 2011.
The NPS has committed to assisting with this study
and to continuing the expanded LT suppression
program. The USGS has committed to research
staffing and project coordination.
Trout Unlimited in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and the National organization have cooperatively accepted a
major part of this fundraising goal. Already, these groups have raised over $41,753 through donations from
TU councils, chapters, members, and concerned individuals from across the nation. GYC and NPCA have
joined in to raise an additional $20,000. Together we are over 70% of the way to our goal. However, we need
your help. We are still around $23,000 from our short term goal of $85,000. And, the goal may have to be
increased if the current receivers are not available in 2012 and beyond. Won’t you please join us by
Tax deductible donations are being accepted at:
Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat Wyoming Council of TU, YL Project
P.O. Box 3008, Cody, WY 82414 250 N. 1st St., Lander, WY 82520