INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT AND QUOTA AGREEMENTS|
SUPPORT LAKE ERIE WALLEYE AND PERCH FISHERIES
SANSUSKY, OH - Walleye and yellow perch have long been the claim to Lake Erie's fame. These two sport fish have traditionally been the catalyst that draws anglers from throughout the country, and helps boost local economies across the entire lakeshore. That is why the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife works directly with the other Lake Erie states and the Canadian province of Ontario in a cooperative approach in managing these important Lake Erie fisheries.
The vehicle for lakewide, consensus-based management is the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The lake Committee, made up of fisheries managers representing Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario, sets an annual total allowable catch, the number of fish that may be taken from the lake without harming the populations.
Currently, the group is focused on efforts to increase the lake's walleye population to reverse a gradual decline that has been occurring in Lake Erie since the mid-1990s. Recently, the Committee's cooperating agencies agreed to reduce international harvest quotas for walleye for the next three years. For 2001, the Committee agreed to reduce the total allowable walleye harvest for the entire lake in half from 7.7 million in 2000 to 3.4 million fish.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to improve the Lake Erie fishery for the future,” said Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist, Mike Costello. “It won't happen overnight but we've laid the groundwork and shown that the entire team can work together to protect this important resource.”
Each state is allotted a share (quota) of the total allowable catch, determined by a formula based on surface area within each jurisdiction. Ohio and Ontario receive the highest quotas because their waters encompass the highest percentage of Lake Erie waters. Of the 2001 quota of 3.4 million fish, Ohio's share is just over 1.7 million, about 51 percent of the total. Ontario's share is about 1.4 million walleye, about 43 percent of the total allocation.
To stay within Ohio's allotted quota, the daily bag limit for walleye in Ohio waters of Lake Erie and its tributaries for 2001 was reduced to four fish from March 1 through April 30, and six fish from May 1 through the last day in February 2002.
“Our focus is to manage for improved growth in the walleye population,” said Costello. “Supporting this effort, both Ontario and Michigan have made similar changes in their bag limits.”
Based on the strength of the 1999 walleye hatch, fisheries biologists predict a brighter future for Lake Erie walleye fishing. “The new quotas positively impact the `99 year class fish enabling them to contribute to the fishery for a number of years,” Costello said.
This three-year conservation effort for walleye follows similar action taken by the Lake Erie Committee to boost the population of yellow perch. Yellow perch are now showing signs of recovery from a sharp decline in the early 1990s.
The total allowable catch for yellow perch in Lake Erie for 2001 was set at 7.1 million pounds, up slightly from 6.57 million in 2000. Yellow perch quotas for individual jurisdictions surrounding the lake are based on a different sharing formula than walleye, involving surface area and past fishing performance.
Ohio's share of the 2001 perch allocation is slightly more than 3 million pounds. Ontario will receive about 3.7 million pounds and Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York will share the remainder. Ohio's portion of the yellow perch quota is then allocated between sport and commercial fisheries.
Sport anglers are allocated 64 percent of the Ohio quota, and commercial anglers 36 percent.
The daily bag limit for sport anglers remains at 30 perch per angler and existing commercial fishery regulations also remain in effect.