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Lake Erie Committee: News Release

Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Lake Erie Committee

For Immediate Release									
April 8, 1997

Contact: Marc Gaden
313-662-3209 ext. 14

Lake Erie Yellow Perch Improving;  
Lake Erie Committee Notes Significant Change in Smelt Productivity

ANN ARBOR, MI  Fishery managers from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New
York, and Ontario gathered recently in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to focus
attention on the state of the Lake Erie fishery and to decide on allowable
fish catch for 1997.  Based on research and reports from its technical
committees, the Lake Erie Committee agreed that increased stocks of yellow
perch in Lake Erie warrant a 72% increase in allowable catch, from 4.3
million pounds last year to 7.4 million pounds in 1997.  The committee also
noted, however, that a series of smaller year classes of walleye
necessitate a 10% decrease in walleye allowable catch, from 11 million fish
in 1996 to 9.7 million fish in 1997.  The committee used this meeting as an
opportunity to consider the condition of rainbow smelt in Lake Erie, noting
that significant changes in eastern basin productivity dim the outlook for
future smelt abundance.

1997 Yellow Perch and Walleye Harvest:

	Members of the Lake Erie Committee recommended a 72% increase in allowable
 catch of yellow perch from 4.3 million pounds in 1996 to 7.4 million
pounds in 1997.  Said committee Chairman Ken Paxton of the Ohio Department
of Natural Resources,  "We are very pleased with the abundance of yellow
perch in Lake Erie and with the trend toward larger year classes.  The 1996
year class of yellow perch in Lake Erie was excellent and provides the
committee with a comfort zone, permitting higher allowable catch without
jeopardizing the strength of the yellow perch fishery."  The recommended
allowable catch, by management unit (MU) in millions of pounds is:

	MU1	MU2	MU3	MU4	
1996	1.4	2.0	0.8	0.1	
1997	2.4	3.6	1.2	0.2	

Most of the increase in allowable catch will occur in the western basin of
Lake Erie, as yellow perch productivity is higher there, compared to the
eastern basin.

	The Lake Erie Committee opted for a more conservative allowable walleye 
catch because of a weak 1995 walleye year class.  The committee lowered the
allowable catch from 11 million fish in 1996 to 9.7 million fish in 1997. 
Lake Erie Committee member Rob MacGregor, of the Ontario Ministry of
Natural Resources, explains:  "We know that because of the poor 1995 year
class, the three and four year-old walleye harvested this year will not be
readily replaced by the younger walleye.  By lowering the total allowable
catch in 1997, we are, in essence, saving fish for future years in hopes of
preserving a stable fishery and preventing a 'boom or bust' situation."

Rainbow Smelt Productivity:

	The Lake Erie ecosystem has experienced declines in  productivity that are
most pronounced in the eastern basin.  During its meeting, the committee
noted that rainbow smelt, an exotic species, flourished in Lake Erie at a
time when phosphorus and plankton levels were high and predator populations
were low.  The conditions were well suited to smelt at that time.  

	In the 1990s, however, significant declines in smelt in the  eastern basin
occurred.  Given the changes that are occurring in the eastern basin with
respect to predators, phosphorus, and plankton effects, the expectation for
a large, stable supply of smelt in the eastern basin is not high.  Should
there be further productivity declines in the central basin of Lake Erie,
similar concerns over smelt may emerge there as well.
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