The effects of suspended sediment on walleye (Sander vitreus) eggs
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Sediment resuspension is among the most widely cited concerns that lead to restricted dredging timeframes. Protection of fish species is a primary concern regarding the effects of dredging operations, yet experimental data establishing thresholds for uncontaminated suspended sediment effects are largely lacking. We conducted research to determine suspended sediment effects on walleye (Sander vitreus) egg hatching success and gross morphology following exposures mimicking sediment resuspension during dredging operations.
Materials and methods
Newly spawned eggs of northern and southern walleye strains were continuously exposed for 3 days to suspended sediment concentrations of 0, 100, 250, and 500 mg l−1, using sediment from Maumee Bay, OH, USA. These concentrations spanned the range measured in the vicinity of dredging operations in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.
Results and discussion
Northern and southern strain egg hatching rates were 53% and 39% of exposed eggs and 82% and 74% of viable eggs exposed, which are within reported ranges for this species. Data indicated no statistically significant effects of suspended sediment on hatching success. Gross morphological observations of exposed fry yielded no evidence of detrimental effects.
Experimental results indicated that walleye eggs are relatively tolerant to exposures likely to be encountered at dredging projects as performed in the Great Lakes region. Our results suggest that, given detailed knowledge of dredging project site-specific conditions and the mode of dredging to be used, better informed decisions can be made regarding adequate protective management practices. In many cases, flexibility could be given to the dredging contractor while maintaining a very low probability of risk to walleye spawning habitat.
KeywordsDredging Environmental windows Suspended sediment Walleye (Sander vitreus)
We gratefully thank Pat Howard of the Hebron State Fish Hatchery, OH, and Justin Wilkins of the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery and their staffs for their assistance in providing walleye eggs. We thank Roger Knight, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, for helpful insights prior to the study. We thank Scott Pickard of the Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, for coordination of sediment collection and experimental design insight and review of an earlier version of the paper; Cynthia Banks for her expert technical assistance and comments on an earlier draft; and Gary Ray for grain size analysis. This research was funded by the Dredging Operations and Environmental Research Program, Todd Bridges, Director. Permission was granted by the Chief of Engineers to publish this material.
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