The genetically unique population of muskellunge Esox masquinongy inhabiting Shoepack Lake in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, is potentially at risk for loss of genetic variability and long-term viability. Shoepack Lake has been subject to dramatic surface area changes from the construction of an outlet dam by beavers Castor canadensis and its subsequent failure. We simulated the long-term dynamics of this population in response to recruitment variation, increased exploitation, and reduced habitat area. We then estimated the effective population size of the simulated population and evaluated potential threats to long-term viability, based on which we recommend management actions to help preserve the long-term viability of the population. Simulations based on the population size and habitat area at the beginning of a companion study resulted in an effective population size that was generally above the threshold level for risk of loss of genetic variability, except when fishing mortality was increased. Simulations based on the reduced habitat area after the beaver dam failure and our assumption of a proportional reduction in population size resulted in an effective population size that was generally below the threshold level for risk of loss of genetic variability. Our results identified two potential threats to the long-term viability of the Shoepack Lake muskellunge population, reduction in habitat area and exploitation. Increased exploitation can be prevented through traditional fishery management approaches such as the adoption of no-kill, barbless hook, and limited entry regulations. Maintenance of the greatest possible habitat area and prevention of future habitat area reductions will require maintenance of the outlet dam built by beavers. Our study should enhance the long-term viability of the Shoepack Lake muskellunge population and illustrates a useful approach for other unique populations.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/clay_pierce/27/