Mixed stock analysis of genetic compositions of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) mixtures in Lake Michigan: hierarchical spatial heterogeneity and evidence of improving recruitment in Wisconsin spawning populations

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Department of Biological Sciences


Information regarding site occupancy of fish that migrate long distances during nonspawning periods together with estimates of recruitment trends for individual populations can be informative for management, especially when individuals from different spawning populations intermix and are sampled or harvested together. Tendencies for individuals from different populations to preferentially occupy specific regions increases vulnerability to anthropogenic and natural disturbances. Using mixed stock analysis (MSA), we estimated population-specific occupancy of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in open-water and nearshore regions of Lake Michigan across a hierarchy of spatial scales. Open-water mixture composition differed between Lake Michigan’s eastern and western basins. Significant heterogeneity in habitat occupancy was also observed at microgeographic scales throughout open-water regions of Green Bay, indicating nonrandom occupancy to regions proximal to natal streams. Estimates of relative recruitment levels determined from MSA extensions indicated increasing recruitment trends for spawning populations associated with Wisconsin tributaries (Oconto–Peshtigo, Fox, and Menominee rivers). Our lake sturgeon results demonstrate the utility of genetic data for informing management efforts for spatially structured, highly migratory species. Similar analyses could prove beneficial for species with similar characteristics.

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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences