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Environment & Climate Change

Arctic Grayling reintroduction to Michigan waterways going well, despite pandemic roadblocks

an arctic grayling
Jim Mogen
/
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Arctic Grayling are a fish that used to be native to Michigan's waterways. About a century ago, Michigan's populations were decimated by overfishing, habitat destruction, and nonnative competitive species. 

Now, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians are hoping to reintroduce the fish to the state's waterways.

Ed Eisch is the statewide fish program manager for the DNR. He's also overseeing the Arctic Grayling Initiative.

"The way we’re doing this is we’re building our own Michigan brood stock for Arctic Grayling, and brood stock are the fish that provide eggs for introduction efforts. You need three year classes, ideally," Eisch said.

Michigan received its first year class of eggs from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in 2019. The state was supposed to receive its second year class of eggs in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. Eisch says he and other partners in the initiative were super grateful that Alaska could get them the second round of eggs in 2021.

"They had paused their grayling program, but they ran an egg take on a feral population just for the state of Michigan to support our initiative. So we’re now two year classes into that development of brood stock, and we hope to go back next spring and get the third and final year class and then we’ll be off and running."

The reintroduction of the Arctic Grayling is modelled after Montana's successful approach.

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