Tribe donating 'backup' lake trout
Written by The Mining Journal   
Wednesday, 10 August 2005 10:04
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community last week released thousands of lake trout into the care of the Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.

About 1,300 "backup" lake trout were released into Keweenaw Bay. Another 1,500 trout were sent to the DNR fish hatchery in Harvey as a "good will gesture."

"We raise the lake trout on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service at our quarantine facility here in Pequaming to certify that they are disease free," said KBIC fish and wildlife biologist Gene Mensch. "We raise additional brood stock as a backup and since they all turned out OK, we gave the 1,300 surplus to the state as a goodwill gesture."

About 3,000 were transferred to the USFWS fish hatchery in Iron River, Wisconsin. There the trout, roughly two years old, will produce around 700,000 offspring each year to be planted in Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior.

"As part of the agreement we just finished, the Fish and Wildlife Service has stocked on behalf of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, 90,000 plus trout in Lake Superior," Mensch added. "Over the last two years they have stocked over 180,000 trout in Keweenaw Bay and Huron Bay."

The KBIC isolation facility quarantines the fish - known as Apostle Island lake trout -for two years to ensure they are free of disease.

"Normally, we'll take samples from 60 random fish and take them back to the lab in LaCrosse to see if any bacteria or disease grow from the samples we took," said USFWS microbiologist Ken Phillips as his department received their shipment of fish. "We also monitor the general well being of the fish. As of today these fish are certified as disease free."

John Leonard, regional Native American liaison from the USFWS, said the more than thirty regional tribes they work with often choose recovery projects that are lower on states' priority lists because of a particular animal's cultural significance to the tribe.

"The tribes, through their clan system, often have a cultural importance that many state programs don't consider as they prioritize their budgets," Leonard said. "For instance, I thought it was absolutely fabulous that the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has worked so hard to re-establish swans here, which are not as high on the state's priority list."

The KBIC works with state and federal agencies to monitor and restore Great Lakes species including coaster brook trout, lake trout, sturgeon and swans. The tribe also has an ambitious wild rice recovery program in the region, according to officials working with the tribe's resource department.

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