Arctic Grayling Initiative: Native Fish Species Returns to Michigan waters

Michigan

The Arctic Grayling were once the dominant species of salmons in the northern Lower Peninsula, but ever since the Industrial Revolution took place this native species was at the risk of going extinct. Unfortunately, that fear came true in the late 1900s, the Arctic Grayling was considered to be extinct in our state of Michigan. 

Due to the degrading of habitat associated with the timber harvest practices of that time the Arctic Grayling no longer existed in Michigan waters. However, local residents and scholars began to take notice, and in 2016, a proposed initiative intended to reintroduce the infamous salmonoid in select Michigan streams was announced.

Todd Grishke, Assistant Chief of the Initiative, said “we have that opportunity to go outside the state, and bring back and reestablish a fish that has intrinsic value, its sheer existence being here and part of the landscape and very important culturally to many organizations.” Now people like Todd say there’s a chance the Arctic Grayling will successfully be reintroduced in the next three to five years. 

He told WLNS it works by bringing Grayling eggs back from Alaska and placing them in incubators. Then, the eventual goal is introducing the fish to stream waters in Michigan.

The Department of Natural Resources is working with various organizations including Michigan State University.

The University established a doctoral student position, PhD candidate Nicole Watson is one of the few who is part of the program at the institution. Watson states she spends her time studying and researching the Arctic Grayling, she flew to Alaska in 2018 and 2019 to collect the eggs and bring them back for study.

“We typically have a red-eye flight home so we’re awake the entire over 24 hours,” Watson said, “We bring them back, we put them in their egg incubation units, they hatch out anywhere from a few days after transport to a week after just depending on the time frame. Then we let them mature for a few days, so about approximately a few days after those eggs hatch I start doing research.”

Watson’s research includes learning about the threats to the Grayling’s survival, their habitat, and how they adapt to their surroundings. She was inspired to study grayling during early childhood trips.

Watson believes she can contribute to a brighter future for Michigan lakes while working with environmental groups, national organizations, and most importantly the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“Bringing that back represents not only a success story from a fisheries management standpoint, but I think culturally it adds to the aura.” Todd Grishke, Assistant Chief Fisheries Division, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources stated.

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