FFIM

FFIM is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting and preserving Maine's fisheries
It is currently December 18th, 2018, 7:33 pm

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Elvers
PostPosted: March 11th, 2018, 2:45 pm 
Offline
FFIMer

Joined: March 5th, 2004, 1:00 am
Posts: 226
https://www.pressherald.com/2018/03/11/ ... ks-dry-up/

I’ll start by saying I’m not deep on the elver details here but big picture generally speaking as humans we’re depleting natural resources left and right. Give us a resource and we’ll suck it dry. Maine is the last stronghold of brook trout, it’s becoming that way with lobsters, groundfishing is dire, elvers, etc. now there’s a global crunch in the elver supply and there’s little/no discussion of preserving the population for the good of something more than a small number of folks making a living off of what remains. I understand “management” is in place but we’ve seen a lot of things “managed” to death. What makes this different? It’s hard not to envision our grandkids wondering WTF we were thinking when we had resources to preserve and we didn’t. Thoughts? Educate me on what I’m missing. Thx.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Elvers
PostPosted: March 11th, 2018, 4:01 pm 
Offline
FFIMer

Joined: July 21st, 2011, 9:30 pm
Posts: 855
Location: Brunswick
I've been thinking the same latley, the headline I read mentioned prices being high as elver stocks were depleted. If the are depleted why are we even fishing for them. It does not make any sense to me. There should be heavy restrictions.... if not a closed season.

Peter

_________________
"A good game fish is too valuable to be caught only once"
Lee Wulff


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Elvers
PostPosted: March 11th, 2018, 7:06 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: December 3rd, 2001, 1:00 am
Posts: 2221
Location: N44.88305* W68.67206*
Guys, I feel your frustration - this is exactly why we need to get on board with efforts to make good, efficient passage available to fish (including eels) on all of our rivers, like the Union River - please see below.
A couple of things to keep in mind:
Aside from market pressure, what happens in Asia (Europe is another story...) will not effect our eel stocks and vise versa, so as long as we establish and enforce sustainable quotas (I know that's saying a lot) we should be able to avert disaster...
We've screwed up a bunch of fisheries, but one example of management success has been our lobster fishery - we've learned a lot since we cratered our scallop, groundfish, herring and urchin fisheries, so I am optimistic that our managers will be extra cautious with our eels.
Eels have a fascinating life history - being catadromous, their life history is the opposite of our anadromous salmon - below is an excerpt from a US Fish article:

People have fished and farmed eels for thousands of years, but until recent years, little was known about the eel's complex life history. Eels have played a major role in the human diet in Europe and Asia. A young life phase of American eels, called glass eels, cyclically fetch a high price on the Asian market and are also harvested in the United States.

The American eel is the only freshwater eel found in North America. They begin their lives as eggs hatching in the North Atlantic in the Sargasso Sea. Hundreds of millions of eggs hatch into larvae that drift with the Gulf Stream and take years to reach their freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats from Greenland south to Venezuela. In these habitats, the eels mature, changing color over time, and then, as adults, millions of them return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn and die.

American eels remain widely distributed throughout much of their historical range, despite reduced numbers over the past century and habitat loss from dams and other obstructions. In some coastal rivers, eels are the most commonly found fish, occupying more aquatic habitats than any other species. Harvest quotas and mechanisms restoring fish passage have reduced stressors on the species. Read more about the American eel (Factsheet, PDF).

Moral of the story is that no ecosystem can be healthy when it's missing vital elements like the eels...

_________________
The best things in life...aren't things.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Elvers
PostPosted: March 12th, 2018, 12:53 pm 
Offline

Joined: December 5th, 2001, 1:00 am
Posts: 5327
Location: Manchester, ME
Two facts about eel biology make their management more difficult. First, elvers migrate to fresh water as juveniles, and mature extremely slowly. It's 10-25 years, and maybe longer, before they migrate back to the ocean to spawn.

Second, unlike salmon or alewives or shad, they don't "home" to a particular river. (How could they? They have no chance to imprint.) So they essentially enter their freshwater habitat at random, riding the Gulf Stream up the east coast and somewhere between the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of St. Lawrence spinning off to find fresh water.

Those two life history traits will make any decline that results from harvest very difficult to detect. The impacts won't come for a very long time, and there is no way to tie a reduction in elver numbers to past harvest in the same river system.

What's surprising to me is that the rest of the East Coast states are willing to let Maine have this harvest after all of them have shut down. From the perspective of the other east coast states, a fairer way to run the fishery with the same level of effort would be to spread Maine's permits across the entire coast. This would also spread out the effort, though because of eel biology, that might not have any benefits to the population.

Brian is right-on that better fish passage is essential. Surveys of larger rivers in Maine show that the number of eels collected by electrofishing declines with each dam as you head up river.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Elvers
PostPosted: March 12th, 2018, 1:36 pm 
Offline
FFIM Addict
User avatar

Joined: December 4th, 2001, 1:00 am
Posts: 5363
Location: Near the tying bench
Jeff Reardon wrote:
Two facts about eel biology make their management more difficult. First, elvers migrate to fresh water as juveniles, and mature extremely slowly. It's 10-25 years, and maybe longer, before they migrate back to the ocean to spawn.

Second, unlike salmon or alewives or shad, they don't "home" to a particular river. (How could they? They have no chance to imprint.) So they essentially enter their freshwater habitat at random, riding the Gulf Stream up the east coast and somewhere between the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of St. Lawrence spinning off to find fresh water.

Those two life history traits will make any decline that results from harvest very difficult to detect. The impacts won't come for a very long time, and there is no way to tie a reduction in elver numbers to past harvest in the same river system.

What's surprising to me is that the rest of the East Coast states are willing to let Maine have this harvest after all of them have shut down. From the perspective of the other east coast states, a fairer way to run the fishery with the same level of effort would be to spread Maine's permits across the entire coast. This would also spread out the effort, though because of eel biology, that might not have any benefits to the population.

Brian is right-on that better fish passage is essential. Surveys of larger rivers in Maine show that the number of eels collected by electrofishing declines with each dam as you head up river.


To make matters more complicated- the American eel will also mature in brackish and marine waters. I've heard estimates that what we see heading upriver into fresh water is somewhere between 10% and 90% of the juveniles. In short- measuring the population by commercial harvest may or may not be reflective of the overall population. And that's before unit effort, etc.. are taken into account (and we all know, when harvest goes down-price goes up- and usually unit effort also goes up for those looking to make money).

Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are all uniquely situated for the existing elver fishery- with the Gulf of Maine serving as a catchers mitt of sorts for glass eels spinning off the Gulf Stream freight train. Fluctuations in wind patterns driving ocean currents, though, can have a big impact on where those glass eels end up, and most climate change models predict shifting winds. These also affect other species- like Maine shrimp, whose numbers are decimated due to the warming GoM affecting their reproductive cycle. That warming is at least in part caused by slowing of the Labrador current (which may severely diminish or downright shut down with loss of the polar ice cap).

_________________
"You never miss the water until the well runs dry" - traditional blues


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Elvers
PostPosted: March 12th, 2018, 1:56 pm 
Offline
FFIMer

Joined: March 5th, 2004, 1:00 am
Posts: 226
Thanks for the feedback, this is helpful. The improved fish passage makes sense (at the same time it's always entertaining to hear what eels are capable of in one-off feats of dam climbing or dryland passage). Let me ask a management question for anyone to weigh in on. At the risk of oversimplifying the management plan and acknowledging Hunter's point that we're only measuring a sliver of the actual juvenile population in river settings I'll ask a question...under current management plans my understanding is that quotas and license #s are determined by population estimates; improved fish passage should theoretically increase eel populations which would, in turn, increase harvest. If that's all true I'm missing the point of the management plan (I'm not missing the point of improved fish passage). Maximum sustainable exploitation?


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Elvers
PostPosted: March 13th, 2018, 9:58 pm 
Offline
FFIMer

Joined: May 16th, 2013, 10:33 am
Posts: 122
Location: Norridgewock Maine
sadly I think that many decisions are driven by sustainable exploitation at the highest level. I think this is true especially of saltwater species. When the striper fishing was brought back from the brink of extinction in the 70's the response at the federal level was simply to open the harvest. To many people( I feel ) a pile of dead fish on a dock indicates that things are good in the ocean . I know it sounds like an oversimplification but so much of the saltwater fishing is about killing fish versus freshwater management. Maybe the ocean is reaching the point where we need to manage it like the freshwater setting. the stripers bounced back, before they opened the commercial kill of Mass. and allowed people to keep three all the way up and down the eastern seaboard.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dryflie, Google [Bot] and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group