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        i  I H=»  ML.L. ₯₯ ir La
      The  1967 Die-Off in Lake MicSiigan
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P    A Report by the Federal Water  Pollution Control Administration
                      Great Lakes Region
                      July  25,  1967


                                   TABLE  OF CONTENTS

Q                                                                     Page

                 Introduction—————————	   1

                 Special Water Quality Survey	•	—	   6

^               Envi.ronmental Aspects of the Problem-	   7

                 Background of the  Problem—	•—•	—	•—  13

                 Origin  of the Alewife Population Explosion———	  17

A               Theories  on  the Alewife  Die-Off	—	  26

                 Extent  of the Alewife Die-Off  in the  Great Lakes	  30

                 Interference to Water Uses by  the Alewife Die-Off	  31

                 Research  and Studies on  the Alewife Problem	—  3k

                 Disposal  and Control Methods on the Alewife Problem—  35

                 Congressional Concern Over the Alewife Problem——-—  39

                 Conclusions——-————————-——  1*3

                 Appendix-	  ^6

                     List of References                                 Vf

                     Special FWPCA Lake  Michigan Water Quality Survey,
                          June-July 196?


                     News Clippings
                                HOT FOR HJBLICATICa


•             On June 15, while  on a flight  to  investigate  sources  of pollution

          in Lake Michigan,  an official  of the Great Lakes Region  of the Federal

          Water Pollution Control Afiminictrution  spotted long white streaks  in

t        the water.   The Navy Hydroplane  in  which he was riding dipped lower.

          The streaks  were windrows of dead alewives, belly-up.  The wind was

          blowing the  dead and dying fish  toward the Michigan side of the lake.

•        The official observed one great  shimmering band of alewives stretching

          for ij-0 miles between Muskegon  and South  Haven, Michigan.   On June 17,

          an article in the  Chicago Sun-Times mentioned the  dead fish and how they

^        had. become an annual pollution problem by littering beaches and producing

          a noxious stench.   Over the weekend, June 17-18, however,  the wind shifted,

          blowing from east  to west.  By Monday, June 19, Chicago's  30 miles of

w        shoreline was clogged with a silvery carpet of alewive carcasses.  The

          following day, Tuesday, June 20, the dead fish continued to pile up in

          incredible numbers.  The great alewife invasion of 1967  was on.  Previous

          die-offs pale in comparison.  None  of  the Great Lakes had  ever experienced

          fish deaths  of such a continuing magnitude before. Newspapers, which pre-

         • viously had  devoted only a few paragraphs to  the annual  event, now had

          comprehensive front-page stories.  (See  Appendix)

               Theories as to what caused  the massive kill proliferated, as the fish

          stacked up on beaches in Michigan,  Indiana, Illinois and parts of Wisconsin,

   • _     posing a giant and unprecedented disposal problem.

               The IWPCA, Great Lakes Region, had  investigators conduct a special

          water quality survey, sampling the  waters in  the southern  basin of the lake

          from Milwaukee, Wisconsin,  to  Grand Haven, Michigan.  Tests were conducted
                  -^^                                ininri-

 ,—x        to determine the chemical, biological and bacteriological content of the

         ,  waters;  fi0h carcasses vere examined for pesticidec; a certain algaa which
           soae  scientists bolieve is toxic was also studied.  All the evidence

           assembled  indicates that water pollution is not responsible for ths alevife

                However,  it is also obvious that the balance of naturs in the lake

           vaters had precariously tilted.  With the diosjrpoarance of natural predators,

           the alewife population had exploded.

                If  natural checks are to be restored by the stocking of such game fich

           as lake  trout  and coho salmon, it will also be necessary to make suro that

           the waters of  Lake Michigan are further protected froa contasinonts, for

           game  fish  are  sem?-,of the first victiras of pollution, as Lake Erie has so

           harshly  demonstrated.

                This  paper, besides reporting oa the water sampling program conducted

           by the 1WCA,  has also compiled a variety of literature on alevives.  Frca

           an examination of this literature, sons conclusions have been drawn which

           may prove  helpful in dealing with this environmental disaster.

. A giant windrow of dead alewives is shown here in

 the middle of I»ake Michigan* Some of theso windrows

 extended for Uo miles and were S>0 feet in

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*  .           The FWPCA's Chicago Program Office, Great Lakes Region, conducted

          a special water quality sampling survey on June 30 > July 1, and July 2,

          fallowing the eha?e 34?'^ f^auna thq la.Hg IVwt MlwuuKse, Wiaeonaifl, to

^        Grand Haven, Michigan.

               The water's chemical, biological and bacteriological contents were

          examined.  Chemical tests of such pollutants as ammonia nitrogen, sulfates,

          chloride, phenol, cyanide, and other contaminants did not show any unusual

          levels which could be linked with the fish die-off.

               Both the waters and the fish were checked for pesticides.  Water

          samples were relatively free of pesticide residues, but the bodies of the

          fish did contain fairly large amounts of the contaminant.  However,

          healthy alewives have been reported to contain levels in excess of those

          found in the examination, and lethal doses of pesticides were not discovered,

          leading investigators to conclude that pesticides are not a significant

          factor in the die-off.
               However, the FWPCA's Southeast Water Laboratory at Athens, Georgia,

          vill assist the Chicago Program Office in further pesticide studies,

          comparing healthy and dying fish, and examining the liver, gill and brain
          tissue of healthy alewives.

               The waters were also checked for bacterial levels and temperature.

          Blue green algae, which some scientists are investigating for toxicity,

          was also scrutinized.  There were no large concentrations of these algal

          blooms at the time the survey was conducted,  though.

               In general, the findings did not indicate the presence of any extreme

f~\       or bizarre pollution conditions in the waters that could have caused the

          massive die-off.  (Details of the survey are contained in the Appendix.)


^  .           The delicate balance that was tipped and led  to the  alewife's popu-

          lation explosion cannot be blamed on any one occurrence.  There  are

          many factors that contributed to environmental changes, including:
^^                                            •
          overfishing, man-made canals, water pollution.  It was an already altered

          aquatic environment that was entered by the sea lamprey,  another invader

          fish, which gained access in great numbers to the  Great Lakes with the

          opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.  The lamprey is  a parasitic  type  of

          fish that is often confused with an eel because of its eel-like  appearance.

          The lamprey has a sucking disc set with variable teeth with which it

          attaches itself to fish and, after rasping a hole  in the  body, sucks

          nourishment from its host.  The lamprey decimated  what remained  of Lake

          Michigan's lake trout population, which had kept the alewives in check.

^J       The lampreys have been brought under control by treating  the headwaters

          vhere they spawn with a highly selective chemical  that kills off their

          larvae while not harming other forms of aquatic life. The sea lamprey in
          its native salt water habitat reaches a length of  nearly  three feet,  but,

          like the alewife, is much smaller in fresh water,  averaging seventeen to

          eighteen inches in length.  The sea lamprey had been virtually landlocked
          in Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario until the digging of more canals gave

          it access to the other Great Lakes.  An example is the Welland Ship Canal

          which connects Lakes Ontario and Erie,  where construction to replace  the old

          canal began in 1913.  The lamprey may have reached Lake Ontario  by swimming

          up the Hudson River and on through the  New York Barge Canal to the lake, a

    .      route the alewife is also thought to have favored.

               With the lamprey under control, restocking of Lake Michigan with lake

 -. J* T  *^ta1*  rj  l V^ I  ^f'   ' ^ \jf^  *\- *  jF \* 1  «'"*- / ' i*   'X-  >'\  t J\  ' i -^ '  i • t  -  - • •   •
^^^t>^^                    '• :"v:;'\-'- •" % >sKS.?^?:w;
       Flies, such as the ones spotting the carcasses above,,

       came in swarms to feed on the  dead alewives* In addition,

       the decaying fish also brought an infestation of

       maggots (fly larva), 6-20-6?

•                                                                                  9
          and steelhead trout and coho and chinook salmon was begun.  Care must
—<  -      be exercised, however, if the restocking program is to succeed.  Adult
   .      alewives will be available to some of these predators only intermittently
          because of the nature of their migrations between deep and shallow waters.
          The alewives live in the deepest wafers in mid-winter/ move along the
          bottom through the intermediate depths in late winter and early spring,
          and inhabit the shallow areas near shore and in the rivers during spawning.
          In autumn, they migrate back to the intermediate areas.  The young hatch
          during the summer and spent most of their first two years at mid-depths
          in the lake.  A steady diet of alewives for game fish also has question-
          able value.  Initial laboratory feeding tests show that lake trout fed
          an exclusive alewife diet for a period of six weeks became extremely low in
          thiamine (vitamin Bj_) content.
<-v            Other fish that the trout depended upon for food also declined in
          numbers when alewives became the dominant species of the lake.  Chubs
          which occupied the deeper depths of the lake and smelt that lived in the
          intermediate and shallow areas have fallen sharply in numbers.  The cisco
          (lake herring) and emerald shiners which lived in the shallower waters
          have all but disappeared; the yellow perch which resides near shore is
          rapidly declining.  If the predator fish can reduce alewife stocks, some
          of the species crowded out  by the alewife may come back\  A controlled
          alewife population, however, would be desirable to serve as a form of
          food for the larger predators.
               Such game fish as trout and salmon are also dependent on clean water.
          Lake Michigan's shore waters, particularly in the southern end of the lake,
    .      are becoming more "enriched" by contaminants.  Pollution kills off certain

forms of organisms in the bottea muds that game fi0h feed oa.  Coarse

or rough scavenger fish, such as the carp, however, can feed on other

pollution-tolerant organisas, such as eludgeworras, aquatic sowbugo,

bloodworms and leeches -- foms of life that indicate pollution.  The

carp can survive in such a despoiled environment, but the game fish

cannot.  They are crowded out .by the coaroa fish in the competition for

food.  Dr. Stanford H. Smith, fishery biologist for the Bureau of Commercial

Fisheries, reports that carp are becoming abundant in the south end of

Lake Michigan.  Lake Erie is a good example of lake "enrichment," and

what it does to gams fish.  The yellow pickerel, or walleye, and the blue

pickerel have vanished, while carp and gar have established themselves in

even greater abundance.

     It Is evident that a restocking progress success depends upon control

of water pollution.  A Federal enforcement conference has established water

quality criteria for the south end of Lake Michigan, with timetables to

meet these standards of purity.  In addition, tha Federal Water Pollution

Control Act required all States to submit water quality standards to the

Secretary of the Interior by June 30 of this year, along with 'plans for

Implementing and enforcing the standards.  The Secretary will review these

standards.  If they are acceptable, they will become official Federal water

quality standards. The strict enforcement of high water quality standards

would insure an environment in which gese fish could thrive and multiply.

     Theories about the alewife deaths range froa shock caused by tenspera-

ture changes to the termination of e life cycle, froa starvation and

suffocation to spavaiag and thyroid stresses.  It could well be that a com-

bination of events is responsible, but nore data and research are needed

before any acceptable conclusions can be drawn.

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                             Chicago was the first community to experience the

                             alewife invasion. Above is  the  scene at the Foster

                             Avenue Beach end Breakwater where  a glistening

                             carp«t of alewife carcasses has baen washed a&hora, 6-19-6?

•                                                                               13

D .
•             Alewife die-offs have been reported  in the Atlantic Ocean  since the
          17001s.  The alewives in the Great Lakes,  unlike  their  salt water  cousins,
          however, have been drawfed in their struggle to adapt to fresh  water.
•        They are about half the size of the Atlantic alewives,  averaging about 6
          or 7 inches compared to their Atlantic  relations'  10 to 11-inch average
          length.  Atlantic alewives also have food value,  having been  sought after
•        first "by Indians and the settlers of New  England. The  name was probably
          given the fish because of their puffy bellies, after the women  who operated
          ale houses in England.
^             The alewife of the Great Lakes has a bigger  head,  enlarged by salivary
          glands that are overworked to maintain  the same mineral (salts) balance in
          its blood as its ocean relative.
^            The Great Lakes alewife also has an  atrophied (stunted)  thyroid.  This
          condition leaves it with less fat content, making it more bony, and
          destroying its food value, except as food for cats or minks.
               Of the estimated 20 billion alewives (l) washed up dead  or dying in
          Lake Michigan, the greatest die-off occurred in the southern  basin.  This
         'is thought to be due to more extensive  commercial fishing in  the northern
          basin.  There is also a market for this fish for  use as fertilizer.
               Alewife die-offs have become an annual event in Lake Michigan through-
          out the past years.  Their 1967 abundance  had been predicted  by the Depart-
          ment of the Interior's Bureau of Commercial Fisheries,  which  noted a record
          hatch in 1964.  The alewife habit of dying en masse when they spawn in the
          late spring had been observed since the l880's in Lake  Ontario.


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 v :\X

                    " C' '^^^.^^--^^VY^   >X   V'
                    'vmv_^/^c?^>/^-. j^i ,• /^v-^Lbi--^:
        An estimated 20 billion alewives died in Lake Michigan during June and

        July, rolling in wave after wave onto beaches in Chicago, Indiana, Michigan

        and Wisconsin* The above picture was takgn at tho 79th Street Beach on

        Chicago's south aids, 6-20-6?

•                                                                               15

x~.       Since most alewives spawn in  the  third year, 1967*8 bumper numbers could

          be anticipated.   (2)

•   -
               Natural inhabitants  of the North Atlantic, the immigrant species

          of the Great Lakes  was  first  noted  in the Finger Lakes of New York in

          1868, with subsequent sightings in  Lake Ontario in the l880's.

               The alewife  has since migrated throughout the entire Great Lakes

          system.  Figure 1,  taken  from Threinen's life history of the alewife (2),

          traces the progress of  these  invaders throughout the  Great Lakes.  Alewives
          soon became and continue  to be the  most abundant fish of Lake Ontario.

         /They also exist in  large  numbers  in Lake Erie, but have not become the

          dominant species  there.  However, Lakes Huron and Michigan support vast

          populations of this fish, and each  has experienced the annual die-offs

          associated with spring  spawning.  Lake Huron preceded Lake Michigan in

^       reaching its peak population; Lake  Michigan may now have reached that

          stage.  Whether Lake Superior will  also experience explosive alewife popu-

          lations remains to  be seen, but progress has been made in replenishing

^    >    Superior's stock  of game  fish which feed on alewives.

               Dr. Wayne Tody (3) Chief of  the Fish Division of the Michigan Depart-

          ment of Conservation, observed that the alewife population of Lake Michigan

^        has increased from  1J per cent in weight of all lake  fish in 1962 to 90 per

          cent by 1965.

               The enormous numbers of  alewives deposited on Lake Michigan's beaches

Q        and floating in its harbors have  created massive problems for cities and

          towns located along it.  Drinking water intakes have  been plugged up; the

   .  .     air has become polluted with  the raw aroma of rotting fish, and local

9        capabilities and  creativity have been severely strained in trying to find

**        ways and means of disposing of the  wave upon wave of  carcasses that have

          washed ashore.

                                                                                  ATWHTIC OCEAN
ef Iht AllontJj « «f invoiisn by fin
                                                    Figure  1



         Species Inter -
              Dr. Smith, in a paper on over -exploited fishery populations in the
         Great Lakes, presented at a symposium in 1966 (k), lucidly described the
f        sequence of events leading to the present over -population of the Great
         Lakes by alewives.  Smith states that "a succession of fish species
         would be expected during the natural aging process of the Great Lakes,
£        but recent  progressive changes in species composition have been rapid
         and obviously accelerated by influences of man, both from enrichment of
         the environment with wastes, and dispoilment of the most abundant or
0       ' preferred species of f ish .. .leading to the state of biological instability
         in the mid-19601 s that is almost unparalleled in fishery science."  The
         sturgeon was largely eliminated through fishery practices.  Lake herring,
9        historically abundant, declined preciptously in the 1920's.  A subsequent
    •     decline in  these stocks since the mid -19^0 's, approaching elimination in
         the mid-19601 s, undoubtedly is a response to an unfavorable environment.
•       The lake whitefish were similarly reduced in numbers, due largely to the
         introduction of the deep trap net in 1928.  Over 4.1 million pounds of
        • whitefish were taken from Lake Huron in 1931; the catch has been less than '
•       200,000 pounds in most years after the 19^2 low.  Combining with the
         fishery over-exploitation was the impact of the sea lamprey.  The smelt,
         originally  a native of Lake Ontario, was introduced into Lake Michigan
•       in 1912 and underwent a population explosion in Lakes Michigan and Huron in
         the 1930' s.  This population suffered severe mortality during the winters
         of 19te-19lf3, probably due to a bacterial or virus disease.


               Smith generalized on the recent changes in the Great Lakes fish
          populations as follows:
                    "Until the 19^0's the Great Lakes as a whole had en-

               joyed a stable and productive fishery despite loss of the

               sturgeon and the few collapses.of stocks in certain lakes.

               All preferred species continued in abundance somewhere in

               the Great Lakes.  Although many showed...degrees of...

               fluctuation, the species composition of the total catch of

               the Great Lakes showed no marked changes or trends....

                    "The major events that started in the 19^0fs involved

               the upper three lakes (Huron, Michigan, and Superior).

               Similar changes...apparently had taken place earlier in

               Lake Ontario, but...had gone almost unnoticed because the

               fishery was small.  Changes that were progressing in Lake

               Erie, and which have accelerated since the 19^0's, were

               dissimilar to those in the upper three lakes and...were

               related more to environmental change, but undoubtedly

               were also influenced by (fishing) exploitation of a few

               preferred species....

                    "The history of fishery exploitation in Lake Michigan

               was typical of the other Great Lakes,  The highest annual

               production occurred near or before the turn of the century

               when the fishery had become well established....

                    "Only nine species have been major contributions to the

               catch and have constituted 95-6 to 99.7 per cent of the catch

               in periods for which records of all species are complete.

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                                                                                   •^-aa^aaiafV~^TJ, ..L^.. :•
                   The scene  of tiny white bodies  invading a beach becoiaa

                   a common sight in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and

                   Michigan,  Above is the 79th Street Beach in Chicago,

                   with the city's South District  Filtration Plant in

                   the background.

^^                 "At the turn of the century seven of these species

f             vere represented in the catch.  The lake trout

               (Salvelinus namaycush) and lake herring were the largest

               contributions to the catch, and the carp (Cyprinus carpio)

f             vhich was introduced into the lake in the late 1800's

               composed less than 1 per cent of the catch.  Despite in-

               creased abundance of carp and the subsequent introduction

f             and establishment of the smelt, the relative contribution

               of the native species to the catch showed no marked changes


               or trends until the 19^5-^9 period when the lake trout

A             catch declined sharply.  Subsequent species changes took

               place in swift succession and by 19&5 "the catch was dominated

               by the alewife (Pomolobus pseud oharengus) which invaded the lake

11|            (Michigan) where it was first recorded in 19^9j exotic species

               constituted nearly 63 per cent of the catch, and the portion of

               the catch composed of lake trout, lake herring, suckers (Catostomus)

f             and whitefish which exceeded 82 per cent in the 1898-1909 period,

               was only ^-.5 Per cent in 19^5.

                    "Several factors contributed to this extreme change, and

9             the interaction of these factors and the exact mechanisms that

               brought about the change are incompletely understood .  There

               is no question, however, that predation of the sea lamprey

V             triggered the decline of the lake trout in the upper three

               Great Lakes, and that the resultant pressures of a shifting

               fishery, and a population explosion of the alevife were major

W             contributing factors ....


          "It is apparent that in all three of the upper Great

     Lakes the abundance of sea lampreys we3 very low at the

     tiirie when lake trout stocks started to decline.   There is little

     question  that the lake trout were the prime prey of the

     sea lamprey and lake trout were the only abundant species of

     large fish that inhabited the deepwater (subthermocline)

     regions of the lakes.

          "The small amount of exploitation by the sea lamprey

     that precipitated the decline of the lake trout stocks

     provides evidence that the commercial fishery had been

     operating at near the optimum rate of exploitation."

     Smith concludes as follows:  Following the decline of the lake trout,

the chub became the last species of importance in the fishery of Lake

Michigan.  The consequence of the pressure of commercial exploitation

and the preying of the sea lamprey, combined with the alevife out-competing

them resulted in the sharp decline of the chub population.  This

competitive advantage of the alewife undoubtedly speeded a population

explosion of alewives in Lake Michigan that gained its greater impetus

in the 1960's.

     To summarize, Lake Michigan was left with a fish population consisting

largely of one species, the alewives.  The natural enemies of the

alewives, the predatory fish species,could no longer assert a controlling

effect in maintaining a balanced fish population.

 C*~) •    Physical Description of Alewives
 *  _         Threinen  (2) describes the alewife as follows:
              "The alewife like other herring has soft fins, lacks teeth, has no
         adipose fin, and has a forked tail.  This species is characterized by a
 ™      knife-edge belly and a saw-like arrangement of scales on the edge, hence
         the name sawbelly.  This herring can be distinguished from its near
         relatives by its relatively heavy build forward, thin body, its big eyes
 *      and a short upper Jaw and projecting lower jaw.  The body is about 3|- times
         as long as it is deep.  Color of the back is a grey-green or brownish green
         vhich becomes a bright silvery color on the sides and belly.  The cheek is
         also silvery.  The larvae are transparent, have large eyes, and black pigment
         cells along the ventral portion of body."
 ^~*          When making its home in the waters of the North Atlantic, the alewife,
         like the salmon, goes up fresh water streams to spawn•  In the Great Lakes,
         the spawning and egg laying usually )occurs in the shallow shore waters
         of the lakes.  In Lake Michigan, this spawning generally occurs between
         April 15 and July 1.  Female alewives in fresh water have been observed to
         contain 10,000 to 12,000 eggs, according to Threinen (2), and the more
         prolific salt water species deposits 60,000 to 100,000 eggs.  Threinen (2)
         also observes that the salt water dwelling adults return to salt water
         soon after spawning and the young migrate to salt water throughout the
         latter part of the summer when they are two to four inches long.  In the
         fresh vater, the young remain around the spawning grounds until the late
^       larval stage is reached.
 ^-v          Laboratory eggs kept at $6 to 60° F in running water hatched in 8l to
         102 hours.

                 Alewives in the Great Lakes have been dwarfed in
                 their struggle to adapt to fresh water,  averaging
                 only six to seven inches compared to  the average
                 11-inch length of their Atlantic cousins* Their
                 size is shovm here in relation to the dead carp
                 in the left of the picture» 6-20-6?

O        Habits and Habitat
        "IU-J	r V T '"T""1—Ti»™«---- -'-   T—•                 C-7

^           Threinen (2) describes the habits and habitat of alevives as follows:

             "Alewives are ...  a ... gregarious fish (they flock together).   in

        the ocean, schools as large as ^0,000 fish have been observed.  In Lake

V      Michigan schools of spawning fish were thought to number 5>000 to 6,000

        individuals in schools 15 to 20 feet  in diameter.  While on the inshore

        migration they come into  shallow water at night and remain off-shore during

w      the day.  In late August  they migrate to Seep water.  Test netting in the

        Finger Lakes yielded alewives at all  depths down to 160 feet.  Test netting

        in Lake Ontario revealed  that alewives were most abundant between 30 (l80

^      feet) to 50 (300 feet) fathoms.  Following spawning, some mortality of

        adults has been observed  among the ocean migrants.  Lake Ontario populations

        have been periodically subjected to large summer die-offs when the adults

        enter shallow water.  This phenomenon has been correlated with water

        temperature changes, the  alewife being unable to adjust to the 10° C.

        (50O F.) temperature gradient between deep and shoal water.  The alewife is

        characterized as being unable to adjust to respidly rising or fluctuating

        temperatures.  It is also a fragile fish which will not stand much handling."

        Food Habits

             The main staple of the alewife diet is animal planktonic organisms.

        In a study made on Seneca Lake, New York, alewives showett that h6% of the

        volume of stomach contents vere microcrustacea.  Threinea (2) also observes

        that in this New York study 24 specimens captured in Lake Ontario had eaten

        mostly Mysis relicta,  an  opossum shrimp inhabiting deep water, and some

        Pontoporela, a deep water scud.  It was concluded that alewives rarely take

 w                                                                               25

 /—\    fish, eat chiefly animal plankton,  and take other food if available.  Salt

 A      vater alevives cease feeding vhen they go up fresh water streams to spawn.


             The Great Lakes alewives do not reach a cize comparable to those

 ^      occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean.  The ocean alevives attain a length

        of 15 inches, with the average size "being 10 to 11 inches and 8 to 9 ounces.

        The average length of the fresh water alewife is about 6 inches.  Threinen

 ^      (2) observes that apparently few Atlantic alevives live beyond 5 or 6 years.

        Economic Value

             The alevives from the Great Lakes to date have had low commercial value.

 %      Most of the catch is used for animal food or fertilizer.  Threinen (2)

        states that soice of the salt water catch is salted, srcoked,  or pickled like

        other species of herring.  However, the thin body and many email bones detract

        from its valua.  Much of the Wisconsin production becomes mink food.  Eastern

        fish hatcheries have used alevives as trout food.

                                                           .                       *
            There has been much speculation as to vhat causes the annual alewife
™  .  die-off.  Theories include starvation; ternperature shock during the migration
      from cold deep waters to shallow spawning waters; natural death at the end
      of a three-year cycle; toxic algal blooms; oxygen depletion in spawning vaters;
*    disease; spawning stress; extreme sensitivity of the ale-wife, end an
      osmotic stress associated with the alewife1s struggle to make the adjustment
      from salt to fresh water.
            Preliminary data compiled by the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries has
      established that the number of yearlings among the dead is greater than in
      previous years.  Twenty per cent of a random sample taken from a half-mile
      of beach south of Saugatuck, Michigan, were yearlings.  Based on data from
      samples being examined in laboratories, yearlings account for 28 per cent
Q   of the total.
            There ip also a scarcity of two-year-old fish, the bureau reports.  This
      age group occupies midwater levels and is not caught in bottom trawls.  The
      two-year-olds begin to join the adult stocks on the lake bottom in July.  By
      November, almost all have migrated to the lake bottoms.
            Both sexes are represented among the dead fish, the bureau adds.  Most
      of the adult females examined had not spawned, so the die-off is not being
      associated at this point with a post-spawning mortality.  There is also
      little indication of emaciation.  Approximately one-half of the dead alewives
_    examined had soma food in their stomachs.
            There was also a significant die-off during the winter.  Bottom trawling
      In April by the R/V Cisco produced far greater numbers of dead end partially
    .  decomposed alewives than had been observed in previous years.

                 Ten days after they were washed ashore, the alewives had

                 decomposed to the extent shown above on a Chicago baache

                 The bones of decomposed aleid.ves can be a hazard to the

                 feet of bathers, 6-30-6?

t                                                                               28

 ^^^        The Bureau of Coimarcial Fisheries is pursuing an investigation into

    -   the role played by temperature and thyroid exhaustion as a possible cause

*  -   of die-off.

            Although  all the functions of the thyroid are not understood for fish,

       it has been  suggested that it is related to grovth, osnjotic regulation, and

       temperature  tolerance.  Alewives are subjected to sharp temperature changes

       as they move shorevard  in the spring and early summer.  Thyroid exhaustion

       also provides  a possible theory for t^ mid-winter mortality since it is

       believed that  the thyroid hormone produces resistance to lov temperatures (5).

            The alevife is  subjected to extreme temperature fluctuation vhen it

       migrates from  the cold  (9 degrees centigrade) deep vaters of the lake to the

       varmer  (19-20° C) shoal areas and tributaries to spawn.  Laboratory studies

       have shown such fluctuations to cause fish deaths  (6).  Field observations

*~\    by Dr. Smith and other  Bureau of Commercial Fisheries personnel have

       substantiated  the laboratory findings.  Although a disease factor could be

       present, no  evidence is available to support this thesis at present.

^          The association of springtime "blooms" of certain toxic plankton vith

       alevife mortalities  has been mentioned by Woods (7) and Williams (8).  Woods,

       hovever, states that this theory has not been demonstrated.

            The theory that alewives spawn in shallow sluggish vaters in such

       numbers that they exhaust the existing oxygen supply and suffocate vas

       dismissed  after oxygen  tests vere run (9).

            McKim (10) stated  that the temperature fluctuation thesis might best

       explain the  larger numbers of young fish dying this year.  The rise in

   .  .  alevife population,  followed by mass mortality, has occurred as the population

       moved each year up through Lake Huron and dovn through Lake Michigan.  If


       Lake Michigan "behaves as Lake Huron did, the oLevife population in southern
>^    Lake Michigan should stabilize, according to Dr. Smith.  Die-offs vill be
       seen each year as always, but chould ba hardly noticeable, as is now the case
       in Lake Huron/ Dr. Ssiith balieves.

t  .                                                                             3°


v y
            According to Greenwood  (ll), alewlfe mortality vas reported from

*  .   Saginaw Bay  (Lake Huron) during this year,  He also reported that an alewife

       kill vas noted in Lake Erie during the latter part of the past winter.

            According to Smith  (12), serious alevife die-offs have occurred in Lakes

^     Ontario, Erie, end Huron in the past.  It is probable that the peak years

       of abundance have occurred in these lakes.  However, annual kills still


            Although neither Greenwood nor Smith estimated the alewife kills in

       each of these lakes in 19^7> Smith (12) stated that the current die-off

       in southern Lake Michigan was the greatest of eny local die-off that he had

       observed in the Great Lakes.



 000 gallons of deodorant to try to overcome the smell (13)-

%       Alewives clog intake pipes and f^^er screens leading into water treat-
      ment plants, electric utilities and factories.  A steel plant on the southern
      shore  of Lake Michigan estimated a loss of approximately half a million

      dollars a day for about 10 days in April 1966 -when cleaning screens on the

      cooling vater system were unable to cope vith alevives entering the intakes.

      The screening system vas inadequate even though it removed 60 tons of fish

      per day.  Electric power generating plants in Illinois vere seriously affected

      at about the same time vhen it became necessary to alternately shut down

      half the generators while cooling water screens on the other half were cleaned.

      In April 1965 > Chicago's new Central District Filtration Plant operated at

      reduced capacity when alewives caused breakdowns to 20 per cent of the

      cleaning screens which were handling 10 tons of fish per hour.  This vater

      system was protected in 1966 by the installation of an alewife diversion


                 A water skiier tiptoes over dead alewives littering

                 the 79th Street beach in Chicago to get to the boat.

                 This is one example of how the massive fish die-off

                 has interfered with recreational uses of the beach

                 front. 6-20-6?


            The alewife is troublesonia to Great Iiakes commercial fishermen because

       they snag easily in perch gill nets  (15)-  Further, alewives compete with

       ciscos, a more valuable commercial fish.  A decline in the shallow water

       Cisco has paralleled an increase in the number of alewives in South Bay

       (Lake Huron), Saginav Bay (Lake Huron), and Green Bay  (Lake Michigan).  The

       rapid build-up of alewives in the Great Lakes is thought to be the result

       of the disturbed inter-relationships between species  caused by the sea

       lamprey and by over fishing.  Lake trout end burbot are predators of the

       alewife.  The recent decimation of their mtnibero probably resulted in the

       Increase in alewife populations.

•                                                                              3*

            Dr. Smith, Mr. Greenwood, and other personnel of the U. S. Bureau
       of Commercial Fisheries, Ann Arbor, Michigan, have studied the alewife
       extensively.  Dr. Smith (12) stated that othorr etudico bolng conducted on
       the alewife includes a study on the ecology of the alewife in northern Green
       Bay by the Michigan Institute for Fisheries Research; a study on the diurnal
       feeding jBOvements of the alewife in the Milwaukee area by the University of
       Wisconsin, and a study of the food of the coho salmon and the lake trout
       In relation to the alewife by the Michigan Institute for Fisheries Research.
            Various Great Lakes states have revised commercial fishing regulations
       to permit a larger harvest of the alewife and to protect such alewife
       predators as the lake trout, coho salmon, and chinook salmon (15)'
            Greenwood stated that the exploratory branch of the U. S. Bureau of
       Commercial Fisheries has been conducting studies in Lake Michigan since
       1962.  Some of the objectives of the agency are to obtain information on the
       availability of the alewife for commercial uses and to obtain information
       on more economical ways of processing and handling alewives.  In order to
       obtain information on the annual relative abundance of fish, samples of the
       various year classes of the fish ore collected each November In the
       Saugatuck area.
            Mr. Greenwood states that the Province of Ontario is making a study of
       alewives In the island area of Lake Ontario.



A          The disposal of dead and decaying alevives demands Immediate action

       of agencies Involved vith recreation on beaches and in harbors.  Usually,

       the fich ere  raked up or ocraped up by hcmd ohovolo and/or tractor lifta

A     and placed into trucks.  They are then transported to public or private

       dumps where they are buried.  In some cases, the fish are buried to a

       depth of h or 5 feet on the beach.  Equipment includes sand sifters

9     to separate fish from sand.  Although disposal might include burning of dead

       alevives, such action would result in air pollution.  Deodorants have been

       applied  to dead fish and the beaches to reduce the stench of decomposition.

9     In some  cases, chemicals are used on beaches to control fly maggots in tha

       dead fisn.

            The use  of trawlers to catch and remove the fish before they reach

       the beaches has been suggested.  Nets placed around vater intakes can

       prevent  alewlves from entering the vater system.  Chicago protected ito vater

       supply by installation of an alewife diversion system in 1966  (l4).

            Methods  of alewife control are varied.  Alevives can be processed into

       animal food and fish meal.  Commercial trawling is an effective vay of

       catching alewives, according to Greenwood (10).  He estimates that during this

       year 50,000,000 pounds of alewives vi.1,1 be taken from Lake Michigan and

       processed at  grinding plants now operating at Menominee, Michigan, Milwaukee

       and Pensaukee, Wisconsin.  Possible future expansion in the business may

       result in the removal of considerable numbers of fish in their first and

       second years  of life and reduce the number which seem to die naturally in the

       third year of life.  Fish predators can aid in the control of alevives.  Lake

       trout, coho salmon and chinook salmon are predators of tha alevife.  According

                        A Beverly Shores Volunteer Fire Bopartment truck

                        sprays deodorant on dead alewivss  to  reducs tha

                        smell of rotting fish,  6-26-6?

•                                                                                38

        selected for many generations to develop a strain that vlll occupy deep

^^ •    water,  grow fast,  and mature early.  Michigan and Ontario have also initiated


        experimental introductions of kokanee in the Lake Michigan watershed end

        in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron.  Although it is uncertain where the kokanee will

        live in the Great  Lakes, they will probably compete with the alewife.

            "It eeems unlikely that all of these introductions will meet with great

        success.  It is certain, however, that the sea lamprey will be controlled,

        as it has been in  Lake Superior, and that conditions again will be favorable

        for large predators  in the deepwater areas.  Establishment of at least

        the lake trout seems to be assured because of its rapid recovery in Lake

        Superior that followed completion of the initial sea lamprey control measures

        in 1961.  The successful establishment of at least one additional major

        predator in the deepwater area would place even greater pressure on the

        alewife as the principal forage species.  Thus, the alewife which reached

        the peak of its population explosion in the mld-19^0fs and is subjected to

        heavy commercial  exploitation, certainly must decline as substantial

        populations of predators are established."

             In another communication, Dr. Smith also observed that "we know that the

        shore waters of Lake Michigan, particularly in the southern end, are

        becoming richer and  the carp that thrive under such conditions are becoming

        more abundant.  Other species favored by this enrichment may also become

        more abundant.  Species that increase under those conditions are usually

        'rough  fish1 and  should be harvested as they often compete to the disadvantage

        of game fish."



             As the dimensions of the alewife die-off became known, Congressional

        interest grew.  There was a public clamor for action to clean up the teaches.

        Sen. Gaylord Nelson  (D., Wis.) introduced Senate Bill 2123 on July IT asking

9                           '                '
        for $5 million to seek to control the elevlfe problem.  The bill would

        provide matching grants to states for research into ways to reduce the tens

        of billions of alewives in the Great Lakes.  Nearly all the 16 senators

        from the states bordering on the lakes will back the legislation, according

        to Sen. Nelson's office.  A companion measure, RR ^793, was sponsored in the

        House of Representatives by Rep. Clement J. Zablocki (D., Wis.).  A similar

        bill has also been introduced by Rep. Henry C. Schadeberg (R.,Wis.).

             Congressional inquiries were directed to the Federal Water Pollution

        Control Administration from elected officials from throughout the Great

        Lakes.  Inquiries came from Sen. William Proxmire (D., Wis.); Senators

        Philip A. Hart and Robert P. Griffin of Michigan; Senators Birch E. Bayh

        and Vance Hartke of  Indiana; Senators Everett M. Dirksen and Charles H.

        Percy of Illinois; Senators Eugene J. McCarthy and Walter F. Mondale of

        Minnesota; and Sen.  Robert Kennedy of New York.  Congressmen who have been

        in touch with FWPCA  personnel include Rep. Raymond J. Madden (D., Ind.)

        and Rep. William A.  Steiger (R., Wis.).

             Sen. Hartke (D., Ind.), another sponsor of the alewife control bill,

        toured beaches in Michigan City, and in Gary with that community's mayor,

        A. Martin Katz.  Afterward, Sen. Hartke said he never fully appreciated the

        problem until he actually saw end Bmalled the fish.

                •v~--»• •«i~??inTvr«-~t. I"	"1 f~—•	=-| -r-'-CT^rg-"'—^™_~—-^.

                s-.j\   \   1_^«r^
                ME- >-^**!vi "a^^r~ T ~ -    ;, !      v •  * *.' J
       fc^^-v^^^-'^:"'^ivc^^^rJ^^^              •.----   '"  ^^x"^
3 \  I*  **' j>" % * ~ 'I v "-*.*'l '" ** "**• '*" -*y"^^ t  »  ^/ •   \- if^f "'v *"i " '-^'"'^'  ^-'J Jrf  "
               Chicago's Burnham Harbor on Juna 30 was a stinking

               mass of dead alewives and algae. 6-30-6?

           Letters and telephone calls from concerned resort and summer horns

      ovners and vacationers have also rained into the Great Lakes Regional Office,

      IWPCA, in Chicago.

           A number of Congrouarnon inquired about tho pooaibXa uao or mcmboro of

      the Job Corps, vho are enrolled in one' of the programs conducted by the

      Office of Economic Opportunity.  Approximately 110 Job Corps members have

      since "been engaged in clean-up activities in the Indiana communities of

      Gary, East Chicago, Whiting, Beverly Shores, and Michigan City.  Along the

      Michigan shoreline "between Benton Harbor and Ludington, between ^0 and

      100 Corpsmen have been deployed for the clean-up.  Twenty-five Job

      Corpsmsn from the Camp McCoy center in Sparta, Wis., vere the latest vork

      force to help vith disposal of the fish.  They arrived at the Illinois Beach

      State Park near Zion, HI., on July 2^ to begin clean-up operations.  Job

      Corps  aid had been requested by Senators Dirksen and Percy.  Job Corps

      •workers are also available for duty in other states if their services are


           Sen. Bayh inspected the alewife problem in Lake Michigan on July 21,

      vhen he vent on a tvo-hour boat tour vith federal, state and local officials,

      traveling from East Chicago to Michigan City, Ind.  Accompanying Sen. Bayh

      on the inspection vere:  H. W. Postorr,? Great Lakes Regional Director, IVPCA;

      Raymond Clevenger, Chnlrman of the Great Lakes Basin Commission of the

      President's Water Resources Council; Ernest Premetz, Deputy Regional Director

      of the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and Wildlife; Blucher A. Poole,

      chief of environmental sanitation for the Indiana Board of Health; John

      Mitchell, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and

*-*.      John Nicosia, mayor of East Chicago.

^           Representatives  from the AUis-Qialcsrs Co., whose equipment is

        currently used by the cities of Gary and Michigan City to remove fish from

        the bcashos,  and Aquatic  Controls Corpt, vhoso machinery removes fish from

^      the water, vere  also  present to brief-the group.

             Sen.  Bayh,  who is a  cosponsor of the bill to provide $5 million for

        alewife control,  said he  will also support efforts to obtain funds for

^      clearing the  alewives from the beaches.  He said that vhile it is too late

        to prevent alevives from  littering the beaches and shoreline this year, the

        $5 million study vill help to alleviate the problem in future years.

0           In addition, he  added, ways must be found to help local officials

        clear the alewives off their beaches to prevent possible health and pollution

        problems and  to  salvage recreational beach uses.

             Rep.  Zablocki has also called on Mr. Clevenger, as Chairman of the Great

     •  Lakes Basin Commission, to arrange a conference on the alewife problem so

        that information may  be exchanged and efforts for dealing with the crisis

        coordinated between the various levels of government.



              Big  alewife die-offs have occurred in Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron

          in the past, vith kills of lecser magnitude occurring in these lakes the

          last few  years.  The alewife die-off that occurred in Lake Michigan during


          June and  July 196T, however, was of unprecedented proportions.  The great

          size of the die-off is no doubt linked in some way with the unstable balance

          that exists between the alevives and their predators.  Unchecked by natural

          predators, the alewife population appears to have exploded.

              Causes of this nasoive die-off, though, remain speculative.  Many

          theories  have been advanced to explain it and past die-offs, including:

          starvation, teiaperature shock during migration from the cold deep waters to

          shallow warm waters for spawning, natural death at the end of the life span,

          toxic plankton blooms, oxygen depletion in spasming areas, and thyroid ex-


              There is an obvious need for more long-term research into the problem.

 ^        While the alewife has been a conspicuous nuisance in nost of the Great Lakes

          for many  years, the 1967 die-off presented a huge disposal problem never

          before encountered.  While all available evidence indicates that water

 0        pollution is in no way responsible for the deaths, the alewives do become a

          pollution problem when they die and are washed ashore, littering beaches and

          harbors to interfer with naay water uses.  The unsightly appearance and

 0        obnoxious smell of decaying alewife carcasses are repugnant to bathers, boaters,

          and other users of water.  Alewives have clogged intake pipes and filter

  ,  .     screens leading into water treatment plants, electric utilities and factories.

 0        They ere  troublescsaa to commercial fishernan because they gill easily in parch

/""S ,      nets, and they have replaced other nore valuable fish such as the cisco and



O               Restocking of fish that prey on the alewivcs and Increased cccnaercial
 •        fishing for them should prove helpful in restoring a balanced aquatic
          environment to bring the alewife population under control.

               There is also n need for programs which will concern themselves with

 •        the more immediate problems of cleaning up the beaches end  finding ways of

          removing the fish frcin the water before they reach the shore.   In this regard,

          increased trawling for the fish should also be considered.

 •             The Secretary of the Interior has appointed a six-man  task force, headed

          by Dr. Stanley A. Cain, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wild-

          life and Parks, to study all aspects of the problem.

 •             Studies of the alewife are also being conducted at the U.S. Bureau of

          Ccssnercial Fisheries, Ann Arborj by the University of Wisconsin;  by the

          Michigan Institute for Fisheries Research, end by sosie of the  Provinces of


               Various Great Lakes States have passed regulations to  encourage heavier

          harvest of alewives and to prevent ccraercial exploitation  of  alewife preda-

          tors.  Such measures, however, are not expected to produce  teaediate results,

          since it is believed that it will take scssa tixia for the predators to

          establish themselves in the lake waters in sufficient nunbers  to exercise a

          controlling influence over the alewife population.


                   A boat owner tries to clean out alewives which have

                   collected in Chicago's Burnham Harbor with an outboard

                   motor. 6-23-6?



            List of References
            Special FWPCA Lake  Michigan Water Quality Survey, Juno-July 196?


            News Clippings
•  •


                             LIST OF REFERENCES


        (1) Warden,  R.  "20 Billion Dead Alewives."  Chicago Daily News,  June 21,  1967

   *    (2) Threinen C> W*'.'.  "Life Histoiy,  Ecology and Management of the
    ^        Alewifo." Wisconsin Conservation Bulletin Publication 223 (19£8).

        (3) "War on That Fish Smell Is Escalated."  Chicago Tribune, July 12, 196?.

        (li) Smith, Stanford H. "How Man Changed His Planet."  Symposium on

            Overexploited Animal Populations, Species Succession and Fishery

            Exploitation in the Great Lakes, A.A.A.S. meeting (1966).

        (j>) Bureau of  Commercial Fisheries memorandum.

        (6) Graham,  J.J. Observations on the Alewife$ Pomolobus pseudoharengus

_           (Wilson),  in Fresh Waters. Publication of the Ontario Fisheries

            Research Laboratory No. 7h (1956).

        (7) Woods, L.P. The Alewife. Chicago Natural History  Museum Bulletin,

Jj^        November I960.

        (8) Williams,  L.G. Possible implications of plankton  populations and alewife

            fish kill,  May and June 196?• Memorandum from Williams to Grover Cook

£           via H.W. Poston,  July 6, 1967.

        (9) Poston,  H.W., Great Lakes Regional Director, FWPCA. Alewives. Memorandum

            from H.W.  Poston to Charles Pierce, Press Officer,  Office of Public

£           Information, FWPCA, Washington,D.C« June 21, 196?s

        (10) McKim,  J.M., research aquatic biologist, National  Water Quality

             Laboratory, Duluth, Minnesota.  Alewife Mortality in Southern Lake

0            Michigan.  Memorandum from J.M.  McKira to H»W. Poston, July ls 1967.

    *    (11) Greenwood, M.R.  Information on  alewives* Telephone call to M.R. Greenwood

 .  f         from H.J.  Fisher, July Hi, 1967.

                                                            I  .
Environmental Prelection Agenoy
230 South Doc. ".born  S tract?
Cilcc^g IlAlicio   6060*1

m '  **                                                     >            .       HB
*                        LIST  OF REFERENCES  (Cont.)
  12) Smith, Stanford H, Information on alewives. Telephone call to

      Stanford H. Smith from H.J. Fisher, July Hi, 196?.

   3) Black, Robert* Information on alewives. Telephone call to Robert

      jplfteis frem H,.J, fliehai', ifuiy i?^ 3-9^7.

   k) Premetz, Ernest. The Great Lakes Alewife Invasion. Information

      paper, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries.

   ,) Michigan Coho ranging wide in lakesj Indiana to aid in protection,

  ;'   The Great Lakes Newsletter, Great Lakes Commission, XI, No, U, March-

 /    April 1967,

'II) Greenwood, M.R, Information on alewives. Telephone call to M.R, Greenwood

      from H.J, Fisher, July 17, 1967.