For Immediate Release

Contact: Marc Gaden

November 15, 1995


Fishery Management Officials Re-Examine Ruffe Control Strategy After the Recent Appearance of Ruffe in Lake Huron

Officials Agree that Ruffe Movement Warrants a New Approach to Deal with this Exotic Menace

Fishery management officials from the eight Great Lakes States, the Province of Ontario, and the Tribes met in Detroit on 8 November 1995 to develop a unified strategy to deal with the European ruffe. The ruffe, a fish introduced to the Great Lakes by oceangoing vessels, appeared in Lake Huron this summer; fishery managers have long been concerned that ruffe would colonize the lower four Great Lakes and disrupt the desirable native aquatic communities. At this special meeting of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Council of Lake Committees, fishery management officials agreed to recommend changes to the existing ruffe control strategy so that fishery agencies can be better equipped to deal with the ruffe's impending widespread presence in the lower Great Lakes.

The Council of Lake Committees (CLC) recommended changes to the National Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force's Ruffe Control Strategy while keeping in mind three broad objectives: first, prevent invasions of new species into the Great Lakes (i.e. protect inland and adjoining waters); second, contain ruffe to the Great Lakes; third, continue to slow the spread of ruffe within the Great Lakes. Specifically, the CLC recommended that

"The recommendations of the Council of Lake Committees will help fishery managers focus on the very real problems we face now that ruffe are in the lower Great Lakes," commented Council of Lake Committee Chairman Douglas Jester of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "The appearance of ruffe represents a permanent change in the Great Lakes fishery. The State, Tribal and Provincial authorities, through this meeting, have taken a big step in attacking this problem in a unified and constructive fashion."

"The health and sustainability of the fishery will determine our ability to fend off the damages ruffe could pose," added Ron DesJardine of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Co-chair of the CLC. "The Council of Lake Committees recognizes that strong, healthy fish communities can act as a bulwark against the strains ruffe will cause to the fishery. Our overall objectives go beyond dealing with ruffe and focuses on building a sustainable fishery that will not lose to foreign invaders."

The European ruffe first appeared in Duluth harbor in 1988. This small, spiny fish entered the Great Lakes through the ballast water of an oceangoing vessel. Until very recently, the ruffe had been contained to an area of Lake Superior west of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. A program implemented by the U.S. National Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force's Ruffe Control Committee tracked the movement of ruffe and recommended a program to slow the spread. The Committee concluded early on that eradication would not be possible.

In the Great Lakes' Duluth harbor, ruffe already have become a dominant species in the local fish community. "Ruffe are nasty little fish," opined Jim Selgeby, a scientist with the U.S. National Biological Service. "Our studies have confirmed our original fears." Selgeby went on to note that although yellow perch and walleye may be reversing their initial decline in the face of ruffe expansion in Duluth harbor, brown bullheads and troutperch have not. Even though ruffe now constitute as much as 15 percent of the diets of predators such as pike, predators are not controlling ruffe populations. Ruffe have no sport of commercial value.

# # #

Ruffe on GLIN

Return to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Home Page