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Lake Erie walleye quotas up but ‘devastating’ drop for perch, says commercial fishery

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

The commercial fishery in Lake Erie, specifically around Wheatley Harbour, will be significantly affected by lower quotas for yellow perch. The allowable catch limit for yellow perch has decreased by up to 32% near Chatham-Kent, with a drop of about 20% for boats operating south of Essex County. The part of the lake near Elgin County, including Port Stanley Harbour, will experience a slightly lower quota decrease of 10.5%. This reduction in quotas is considered devastating for Essex and Kent counties and substantial for Elgin County.

On a positive note, the quota for walleye in Lake Erie is increasing by approximately 20%. The walleye allowable catch limit is rising from about 7.1 million fish to 8.5 million in 2019. Ontario is allowed around 3.6 million fish, but the exact catch weight for the commercial fishery is yet to be determined. The increase in walleye quotas can be attributed to successful hatches in recent years, with the population thriving.

The decrease in yellow perch quotas is likely due to the abundance of walleye, which puts pressure on smaller fish. Commercial fishing boats and crews will need to manage their allowable perch catch over the season. It's worth noting that the commercial boats are already fishing for walleye using different gear than what is used for perch.

The total allowable catch for yellow perch in Lake Erie in 2019 is set at over 8.5 million pounds, a decrease from the nearly 10.5 million pound limit in the previous year. Ontario receives approximately four million pounds, which is divided among different geographical areas of the lake for the commercial fishery.

The press release from the Lake Erie Committee indicates that perch populations are lower, and there is a possibility of further declines in the central basin of Lake Erie. The allowable catch for Lake Erie considers both the commercial fishery on the Ontario side and sport anglers on both sides of the border.

In 2015, the commercial fishing and processing industry in Lake Erie was estimated to have an annual economic impact of over $244 million.

By Sharon Hill, Windsor Star Publishing date: April 1, 2019

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