ASHLAND, Wis. -The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will host two public meetings on June 22 in Bayfield and June 23 in Ashland to discuss potential adoption of a Lake Superior cisco management plan.
Cisco hold significant commercial value and also represent a key link in the Lake Superior food chain, eating zooplankton and serving as prey for lake trout. In addition, cisco eggs serve as a primary food source for whitefish – another valuable commercial and recreational species.
Cisco may be sold fresh, smoked or in fish cakes but it is their roe that has gained significant commercial interest and it is prized in Scandinavian countries as “bluefin caviar.”
Photo Credit: DNR
Terry Margenau, DNR Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, said the commercial harvest of cisco in the Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior has increased dramatically since 2008 when commercial processors began accepting whole fish. Cisco – also known as lake herring – may be sold fresh or smoked but their roe holds the greatest value and is sold in Scandinavian countries as “bluefin caviar.”
“The annual harvest from 2008 to 2014 averaged nearly 1.4 million pounds, a level more than three times the average annual harvest from 2000 to 2007,” Margenau said. “The cisco harvest from Wisconsin waters now accounts for two-thirds of the total Lake Superior harvest and there is concern among Wisconsin fisheries managers as well as those from neighboring states and Canada about survey data that shows declining abundance of the fish.
Margenau said cisco are vulnerable to over-harvest because they are most valuable and also easiest to catch during fall spawning when they congregate in easily accessible spawning grounds in Wisconsin waters. Wisconsin DNR is seeking stakeholder input to develop a management plan that recognizes the economic importance of the present-day catch while ensuring the resource will sustain future commercial activity and the related lake trout and whitefish fisheries.
“Indications are that there is a lake-wide decline in cisco abundance and we would like to gather stakeholder input to develop a management plan so that we are better prepared to address the situation should surveys show further population declines,” Margenau said.
The upcoming meetings will start at 6 p.m. and will be held:
• June 22, Bayfield – Bayfield Heritage Association Museum, 30 N. Broad St.
• June 23, Ashland -Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 29270 Hwy G.
A short summary presentation will be followed by an opportunity for stakeholders to ask questions and provide comments. In addition, written comments may be submitted until July 6 to: Terry L. Margenau, Lake Superior fisheries supervisor, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 589, 141 S. Third St. Bayfield, WI 54814; or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.