Scientists Restoring 

Two Native Fish Species in Lake Ontario

The U.S. Geological Survey is taking an innovative approach to simultaneously restoring two native fish species — Atlantic salmon and bloater — at different levels of Lake Ontario’s food web.


Historically, the Lake Ontario population of Atlantic salmon represented the largest freshwater population of salmon in the world. Overfishing and loss of spawning habitat has since led to their extirpation. A state-of-the-art fish culture facility built at the U.S. Geological Survey Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science is helping scientists develop effective rearing and stocking techniques for Atlantic salmon and bloater (a type of herring). Bloaters are a food source for Atlantic salmon. The first release of hatchery-reared salmon occurred in fall 2011, with plans to release the first “Lake Ontario strain” salmon in 2016. Bloater release was scheduled to begin this year. The project is a critical first step in restoring a resilient native fish community in Lake Ontario, which will strengthen the local ecosystem and the local economy.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Low levels of native fish species


Atlantic salmon

The finished product of the fish rearing project, a beautiful Atlantic salmon. Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey.

Results and Accomplishments

About 65,000 Atlantic salmon were released in Lake Ontario tributaries in September 2011. Another 8,000 fall fingerling salmon were released in St. Lawrence River tributaries in October 2011 in partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. The U.S. Geological Survey hatchery is also rearing lake herring and bloater, which will be released into Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.