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NFC: Fw: Blue Pike

Rainbow smelt's two-pronged attack helped kill off the blue pike

October 29, 1997

ERIE, Pa. (AP) -- The rainbow smelt, a small fish that ate baby blue pike
and was eaten by blue pike adults, probably did more than anglers to
the extinction of Lake Erie's blue pike, a onetime staple of Saturday
fish fries.

When the mature pike ate smelt, they consumed high concentrations of
thiamanese, a substance that may weaken pike eggs, Dieter Busch, director
the Lower Great Lakes Fishery Resources Office, said.

At the same time, smelt fed voraciously on baby pike.

When Bob Wellington, an aquatic biologist, worked at Lake Erie for the
Fish Commission in 1969, he saw five-mile-long schools of smelt.

"Baby blue pike trying to swim through such a school would have a real
difficulty in surviving,'' Wellington said. "They had teeth on them like

Busch gave a report on the blue pike this week to a gathering of about 60
members, including Wellington, of Save Our Native Species of Lake Erie,
known as SONS.

A favorite of fresh-water-fish gourmets, the blue pike once abounded in
Erie and was featured on restaurant menus for miles around. Pollution,
overfishing and the effects of the rainbow smelt combined to diminish the
blue pike. It was declared extinct in 1976.

But blues may have survived in other lakes that were stocked by fans of

Biologists think they have found fish resembling blue pike in some
lakes, and they are trying to confirm that beliefe using DNA found in
on samples of blue pike scales saved by previous scientists. At least
$150,000 is needed to fund the DNA study, Busch said.

He has proposed a hatchery to raise herring as food for the blues, in
survivors are found and reintroduced into Lake Erie.

SONS of Lake Erie planned to help raise funds for the "blue pike
initiative,'' which includes the DNA testing. Congressman Phil English of
Erie and U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, are seeking federal
for the initiative.

Smelt, a non-native species, was introduced to the lake in the 1930s and
became abundant, although it is now in decline because of a shortage of
food. Two other endangered Lake Erie species -- sturgeon, which grow up
eight feet long, and whitefish -- are undergoing a resurgence.

Busch said trying to reduce the lake's smelt population might provoke a
confrontation with Canada's lucrative smelt-fishing industry.

Robert Rice
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