Between 1987 and 2003, the abundance of burbot Lota lota in eastern Lake Erie increased significantly, especially in Ontario waters. We considered four hypotheses to explain this increase: (1) reduced competition with lake trout Salvelinus namaycush, the other major coldwater piscivore in Lake Erie; (2) increased abundance of the two main prey species, rainbow smelt Osmerus mordax and round goby Neogobius melanostomus; (3) reduced interference with burbot reproduction by alewives Alosa pseudoharengus; and (4) reduced predation by sea lampreys Petromyzon marinus on burbot. Species abundance data did not support the first three hypotheses. Our results suggested that the apparent recovery of the burbot population of Lake Erie was driven by effective sea lamprey control. Sea lamprey predation appeared to be the common factor affecting burbot abundance in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. In addition, relatively high alewife density probably depressed burbot abundance in Lakes Ontario and Michigan. We propose that a healthy adult lake trout population may augment burbot recovery in some lakes by serving as a buffer against sea lamprey predation and will not negatively impact burbot through competition. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2006.
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Evidence that sea lamprey control led to recovery of the burbot population in Lake Erie