The post-glacial coregonine assemblage in the Great Lakes included several species of the genera Prosopium and Coregonus. Overfishing, habitat degradation, and competition with various exotic fish species severely reduced coregonine abundance and altered their distribution by the mid to latter part of the 20th century. Most of the original Coregonus species, some which were endemic to the Great Lakes, are now extinct or are extremely rare. The prevailing coregonines are mostly benthic and deep-water species, contrasted to the original assemblage dominated by pelagic, nearshore species. Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) populations have recovered and now support record fisheries in Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. Bloaters (C. hoyi) have recovered to dominate the planktivorous fish community in Lake Michigan and are rapidly increasing in Lake Huron. The recent resurgence in some coregonine populations are linked to declines in exotic fish populations and favorable climatic changes. The reduced diversity of the coregonines may explain the dominance of the remaining species. The stability of this simplified coregonine community is uncertain but the existing coregonines have demonstrated resiliency.
Additional Publication Details
Status of coregonine fishes in the Laurentian Great Lakes