The alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) has caused serious problems in the Great Lakes for almost 100 years. It entered Lake Ontario in abundance via the Erie Canal during the 1860's when major piscivores were declining, and became the dominant species in the lake during the 1870's. The alewife subsequently spread throughout the Great Lakes and became the dominant species in Lakes Huron and Michigan as major piscivores declined. In lakes where it became extremely abundant, the shallow-water planktivores declined in the first decade after alewife establishment, the minor piscivores increased then declined in the second decade, and the deep-water planktivores declined in the third decade. The consequence has been a general reduction in fishery productivity. Rehabilitation will require extreme reduction of the alewife, and restoration of an interacting complex of deep- and shallow-water forage species, and minor and major piscivores, either by reestablishing species affected by the alewife, or by the introduction of new species that can thrive under the new ecological conditions of the lakes.
Additional publication details
Species interactions of the alewife in the Great Lakes