The identification and protection of essential habitats for early life stages of fishes are necessary to sustain fish stocks. Essential fish habitat for early life stages may be defined as areas where fish densities, growth, survival, or production rates are relatively high. To identify critical habitats for young-of-year (YOY) alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) in Lake Michigan, we integrated bioenergetics models with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to generate spatially explicit estimates of potential population production (an index of habitat quality). These estimates were based upon YOY alewife bioenergetic growth rate potential and their salmonine predators’ consumptive demand. We compared estimates of potential population production to YOY alewife yield (an index of habitat importance). Our analysis sug- gested that during 1994–1995, YOY alewife habitat quality and yield varied widely throughout Lake Michigan. Spatial patterns of alewife yield were not significantly correlated to habitat quality. Various mechanisms (e.g., predator migra- tions, lake circulation patterns, alternative strategies) may preclude YOY alewives from concentrating in areas of high habitat quality in Lake Michigan.
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