Blue walleye

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Blue Walleye (Blue Pike)
Blue walleye.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Percidae
Genus: Sander
Species: S. vitreus
Subspecies: S. v. glaucus
Trinomial name
Sander vitreus glaucus
(Hubbs, 1926)

The blue walleye (Sander vitreus glaucus), also called the blue pike, is a subspecies of the walleye that has been critically endangered in the Great Lakes since the 1980s. Until the middle of the 20th century, it was a commercially valuable fish, with about a half million tonnes being landed during the period from about 1880 to the late 1950s, when the populations collapsed.

The fish was endemic to lakes Erie and Ontario of the Great Lakes region of North America, including the interconnecting Niagara River, but most especially to Lake Erie, where it sometimes represented more than 50% of the commercial catch. The subspecies was apparently extirpated in the Great Lakes by about 1983 through a combination of anthropogenic eutrophication, overfishing and competition with the introduced rainbow smelt, Osmerus mordax. The subspecies is now considered extinct.

There are occasional reports of blue walleye being caught from waters in the Great Lakes Basin, because many yellow walleye populations also contain a colour variant with a bluish colour. The actual blue walleye, however, was said to be distinguishable from the yellow walleye by various meristics and morphometrics which the blue colour variant of the yellow walleye seems not to share. Reportedly, though, some of the meristic and morphometric differences may simply have been artifacts of the different growth rates of yellow and blue walleyes. The clearest evidence, however, indicates that the blue walleye, whatever its taxonomic status, has been lost. Nonetheless, an investigation of genetic material from preserved blue walleye specimens is currently underway in several research facilities in an effort to decipher the true status of the populations.

Blue color variant of the yellow walleye
Image of a typical walleye (right) and a blue colour variant (left), caught on Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee.

To date, none of the bluish-coloured walleyes recently captured has been shown to be a blue walleye, despite the fact that at least one organization in the US is offering a reward for the successful capture of a blue walleye specimen. A United States Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan in the mid-1970s was unable to find any certain evidence of the blue walleye's existence at that time. Nine purported blue walleyes captured in 1975[citation needed] , including a number of gravid females, were inconclusive as to their subspecific designation and failed to produce any viable offspring through artificial propagation. The last known blue walleyes, to any degree of certainty, were captured in about 1983 from both lakes Erie and Ontario[citation needed] . Subsequent exhaustive efforts to find a relict population have been entirely unsuccessful. The loss of the blue walleye is, arguably, an extinction event on par with the loss of the passenger pigeon and the near-extirpation of the American bison. Where once the subspecies numbered in the millions, all are now gone.

The blue walleye is in the same family as the yellow perch.

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