For Immediate Release
April 20, 2000
Contact: Marc Gaden
734-662-3209 ext. 14
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ON - Fishery managers from Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario have agreed to reduce the harvest level of walleye for the second year in a row. The Lake Erie Committee, acting on a report from its Walleye Task Group that pointed out the lake-wide abundance of walleye is predicted to be lower in 2000, agreed to set the total allowable catch (TAC) at 7.7 million fish, down 12 percent from the 1999 TAC of 9 million fish. The committee also recommended the yellow perch TAC remain at a level similar to the 1999 TAC of 6.5 million pounds. Fishery managers are concerned that the harvest of perch needs to be reduced in both the western and eastern basins, but also recognized that perch stocks are particularly strong in the central basin of the lake.
In response to their continuing concern for both walleye and yellow perch, the committee decided to pursue coordinated, long-term strategies to protect and rebuild these stocks. As an initial step, this year the LEC will re-institute the interagency lake-wide walleye tagging study designed to examine walleye population dynamics and stock structure. Over the next year the committee will develop more comprehensive strategies designed to sustain walleye and yellow perch populations at desirable levels. The LEC will announce further details at their 2001 annual meeting.
The Lake Erie Committee also outlined their Position Statement on Ballast Water. The committee encourages and supports efforts to totally control all biological components of ballast within the Great Lakes basin. Several non-native organisms have entered the Great Lakes by way of ballast water in the past 15 years, including zebra mussels, round gobies, ruffe and the Russian water flea, with profound influences on native species and food webs. The next introduction could have even more devastating effects.
The walleye TAC is set at 7.7 million fish, down from 9.0 million fish in 1999 and 10.3 million fish in 1998. The abundance of two years old and older walleye is estimated to be 50 million fish in 2000, down 14 percent from the 57 million fish estimated to be in the lake in 1999. The fishery will rely heavily on the strong 1996 year class for the third straight year due to weak 1997 and 1998 year classes.
The 1999 harvest of walleye was estimated at 4.8 million fish, a 29 percent decline from the 6.8 million fish harvested in 1998. The commercial harvest of walleye dropped 16 percent to 3.5 million fish, while the sport harvest suffered a substantial drop of 49 percent to 1.3 million, the lowest level since 1976 when walleye fishing was reinstated on Lake Erie.
The yellow perch TAC is set at 6.57 million pounds, similar to the 1999 TAC of 6.5 million pounds and but down from the 1998 TAC of 7.44 million pounds. The sustained recovery of yellow perch stocks in all areas of the lake depends on the contribution of the moderate to strong 1996 and 1998 year classes. The 1997 year class entering the fishery this year is weak
The 1999 harvest of yellow perch was estimated to be 5.7 million pounds, a 3 percent decline from the 1998 harvest. The commercial harvest was 4 million pounds and the sport harvest was 1.6 million pounds.