Renaissance Fallsview Inn
Niagara Falls, Ontario
March 27-28, 2003


Lake Ontario Committee members: 
Chairman Sandra Orsatti (OMNR), Vice Chair Bob Lange (NYDEC)

Good news: Lake sturgeon, sunfishes, largemouth bass, and Bay of Quinte yellow perch are doing well. Eastern basin walleye have stabilized at 400,000 fish following a 10-year decline. Dreissenid populations have declined or stabilized in the Bay of Quinte. White perch numbers are down. Salmonid numbers are steady but lower than in in the early 90s as stocking was reduced in past years. The amphipod Diporiea has been found in deeper waters, but at lower densities relative to previous surveys. Sea lamprey are under control.

Bad news: Chlorophyll a, primary productivity, and "turbidity" decreased especially near shore. Overall, populations of Diporiea and burbot are showing decline. Whitefish, which had been in recovery, are now in severe decline. Populations of zooplankton, including Mysis, are down in 2002, perhaps due to predation by the exotic cladoceran, Cercopagis. Lakewide, yellow perch populations have declined steadily over the past 10 years to what may be historical levels (3 year average slightly increasing in NY waters). Numbers of rock bass and northern pike are down. American eel appear headed toward extirpation in Lake Ontario. Production of wild lake trout has continued at a low level. Winter waters stayed warm in 2002/03, an El Nino year with substantial ice cover for the Upper Lakes. Cormorants are eating three times the fish they consumed in 1991, i.e., 45-50% of the current prey fish population.

New initiatives: Speakers recommended that the LOC support research to determine management options under a new lake regime of food web or lower trophic level change amplified by exotic introductions and climate change. Current rehabilitation objectives may no longer be achievable.

1. St. Lawrence River Fish Community Objectives
Alastair Mathers (OMNR) will incorporate final agency comments and work with GLFC during the publication process.

2. State of the Lake Report
The Steering Committee will make arrangements to hire a technical editor, who will incorporate agency edits and standardize jargon, etc. Since technical details are covered in the SCOL II publications, the state of the lake report will consist of four or five write-ups from actual presentations, plus an overall, non-technical synthesis.

3. Environmental Objectives
The LOC will finalize fish community objectives for the St. Lawrence River, revise the Lake Ontario fish community objectives, and then work on environmental objectives - perhaps requesting Canada-Ontario or GLFC Coordination Activities Program assistance in 2004 (for 2005).

4. Research Priorities
The LOC requested that the Technical Committee develop for LOC endorsement research priorities that address fish and their links to lower trophic levels. Research priorities should be organized around fish community objectives and/ or the state of the lake format for use in December 2003 Request for Proposals for the Restoration Act and the GLFC's Fishery Research Program.

The Technical Committee should also list possible funding sources such as Canada-Ontario Agreement funds, EPA, Restoration Act, GLFC Fishery Research Program, etc. and work with organizers to identify and fully utilize partnership and leverage opportunities.

5. Habitat
The LOC and Lakewide Management Plan will continue to seek out opportunities and options to continue to develop cooperation, linkages, and coherence between their programs The State of the Lake Conference was jointly produced by the LOC and the Lake Ontario LaMP.

6. Officers
Steve LaPan (NYDEC) will chair the LOC through the 2005 meeting and Rob MacGregor (OMNR) will serve as Vice Chair.