Surf Smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) in Burrard Inlet, British Columbia: A Limited Data Assessment to Address Concerns about Potential Recreational Overharvesting

Surf Smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) in Burrard Inlet, British Columbia: A Limited Data Assessment to Address Concerns about Potential Recreational Overharvesting

Thomas W. Therriault and Douglas E. Hay

Surf Smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) in Burrard Inlet, British Columbia: A Limited Data Assessment to Address Concerns about Potential Recreational OverharvestingThis is part of Fisheries Assessment and Management in Data-Limited Situations
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Description

Surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) occur throughout temperate coastal regions of the Northeast Pacific. Our understanding of the biology, distribution, and abundance of this species is poor. Within Burrard Inlet, adjacent to metropolitan Vancouver, small local fisheries that have operated for over a century continue. During the early 1900s most smelt were taken in small, commercial fisheries for local consumption. Gradually, commercial fisheries diminished, and were replaced by a rapidly expanding recreational fishery that peaks during spring and summer months on surf smelt spawning beaches. Because of the many uncertainties associated with the biology and fisheries for this species, some managers have expressed concern about fishery sustainability and potential recreational overharvesting. Surf smelt stocks in British Columbia previously have not been assessed. In this paper, we develop simple methods to (1) estimate spawning stock biomass based on measurements of spawn deposition and (2) estimate recreational catches based on favorable fishing times, as creel surveys are not available. Also, we examine surplus production models to estimate fishery parameters. These analyses indicate that recent annual surf smelt catch in Burrard Inlet may remove up to 40% of the potential spawning biomass, a high level for a short-lived, iteroparous species, especially as the estimated annual natural mortality rate is around 0.45. In general, results from our analyses indicate that the Burrard Inlet surf smelt population is not being overharvested but some concerns regarding recreational harvest levels might be justified and verification of actual recreational catches should be a priority.

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