For Immediate Release
July 19, 2000
Contact: Marc Gaden
734-662-3209 ext. 14

International Committee Taking Action to Protect Lake Erie Walleye

Ann Arbor, MI—During the 1990s, a downward trend in Lake Erie walleye abundance has made it harder for sport and commercial fishers to catch this prized species. A new effort by management agencies on Lake Erie seeks to reverse this trend and to help rebuild the walleye fishery. This new Coordinated Percid Management Strategy is under development by the Lake Erie Committee and will be both lake-wide and international in scope, will focus on walleye and yellow perch (members of the percid family of fishes), and will be based on sound science. The Lake Erie Committee is composed of representatives from Michigan, New York, Ohio, Ontario and Pennsylvania fishery agencies and operates under the umbrella of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. 

Walleye Fisheries managers have been tracking a distinct downward trend in angler and commercial walleye fishing success since stocks peaked in abundance in the late 1980s. Members of the Lake Erie Committee have agreed to work together to halt any further decline and to begin rebuilding walleye stocks, starting with the 2001 fishing season. The Committee is proposing substantial changes to the walleye harvest strategy by such actions as setting more conservative annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and conducting a comprehensive review of existing regulations such as angler creel limits, seasons and size limits for both commercial and sport fisheries and the need for sanctuaries. 

Most of the walleye caught in Lake Erie are produced in the western basin of the lake. As walleye stocks increase in abundance, many of the older walleye spread further east during the summer fishing season, promoting economic and social benefits to communities throughout the lake on both sides of the border. One of the objectives of the strategy is to increase the distribution of benefits of improved western basin walleye stocks throughout the lake.

The Lake Erie Committee has traditionally put the emphasis of its walleye management on the setting of the annual walleye TAC, which establishes the total amount of walleye that can be harvested that year without jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the stocks. A sharing formula is then used to determine what proportion of the total catch can be caught in Ontario and American waters. For the past five years, the Committee has been conservative in setting this TAC, but are now looking at setting the TAC at an even more conservative level and not increasing it for at least three years.

Yellow Perch Yellow perch abundance declined dramatically in the early 90s and the Lake Erie Committee put in place measures that have resulted in a satisfactory recovery of perch stocks in the western and central areas of the lake. Current conditions and population trends suggest that there is still potential for more improvement. The strategy will look at ways to ensure continued protection of yellow perch. As with walleye, improved perch stocks will lead to increased economic and social benefits throughout the lake.

Members of the Lake Erie Committee decided to pursue a coordinated, long-term strategy to protect and rebuild the lake’s walleye and yellow perch stocks during their annual meeting held March 29-30, 2000 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

The Lake Erie Committee is composed of a representative from each of the five fisheries agencies on Lake Erie - Michigan Department of Natural Resources, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission. 

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission is a U.S./Canadian organization established by the 1955 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries to study and advise on issues and measures related to the maximum sustained productivity of fish stocks of common concern, to carry out a sea lamprey control program, and to facilitate coordinated fisheries management among all management jurisdictions on the Great Lakes.