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After its 1957 collapse under intensive fishing and environmental stresses, the walleye (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) stock of western Lake Erie remained low throughout the 1960s. A moratorium on both sport and commercial fishing, resulting from the 1970 discovery of mercury concentrations in walleye flesh, provided an opportunity for the development of an international interagency management plan. The quota management plan developed depended on sequential projection of the fishable stock on the basis of estimated annual recruitment and reports of total withdrawals from the stock. The fishery reopened gradually and quota management (including allocation among jurisdictions) was implemented in 1976. The stock, which had been gradually increasing as a result of relatively strong year-classes produced in 1970, 1972, and 1974, responded well to limited exploitation and produced a record year-class in 1977. Quotas were exceeded in 1978-80, but the stock continued to improve to the extent that the recommended rate of exploitation was increased in 1980 and again in 1981. As the population expanded, growth began to decline; the decline became apparent in young-of-the-year in the early 1970s and in older walleyes in the late 1970s. This trend toward progressively slower growth, which continued in the 1977 and subsequent year-classes, was accompanied by an increase in length at sexual maturity and a decrease in the percentage of female walleyes reaching sexual maturity at age III. As a net result of these changes, the proportion of mature females in the stock (an index of stock fecundity) decreased slightly during the interval 1975-84, while the estimated biomass of the standing stock rose from 9 000 to nearly 26 000 t. Both sport and commercial catches increased markedly after 1980 in Lake Erie's central basin.
Additional Publication Details
Dynamics of the recovery of the western Lake Erie walleye (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) stock
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences