Eulachon Nass / Skeena Rivers population
Scientific Name: Thaleichthys pacificus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
Range: British Columbia, Pacific Ocean
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2013
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status
Image of Eulachon
Eulachon is an anadromous fish endemic to the Northeastern Pacific, and one of the ten smelt species in the Family Osmeridae. This species is also referred to as candlefish, oolichan, and ooligan, amongst others. Eulachon are well known for their high oil content and have great significance to First Nations as a food source and in historic bartering with other coastal and interior tribes.
Distribution and Population
Eulachon are found throughout the Pacific Coast from northern California to the eastern Bering Sea. Within British Columbia, Eulachon occur in at least 38 rivers; however, this species spends over 95 percent of its life in the marine environment. Eulachon spawn, almost exclusively, in rivers that have a spring freshet and are glacially fed. Since the mid 1990’s, Eulachon populations south of the Alaska border have declined precipitously and coincidentally.
Eulachon spend more than 95 percent of their life in the marine environment, and only uses freshwater during spawning, egg and early larval stages. After hatching, larval Eulachon quickly move out into the estuary where they spend some months migrating offshore in the fall. Adult Eulachon are demersal and are most frequently found at depths of 70 to more than 200 meters.
Eulachon are small and usually less than 20 cm in length; they resemble a small salmon, with an adipose fin and long anal fin, but with a smaller head, more slender body, and without a fleshy flap at the base of the pelvic fin. Eulachon have distinctive lines on the gill covers. In the ocean, Eulachon live near the bottom and are often associated with shrimps, while feeding on small plankton and euphausiids. The Eulachon is itself a rich food source for a variety of fish and marine mammal predators.
The factors causing the coast wide decline of Eulachon populations are unclear. Threats to individuals as well as their habitat occur in both freshwater and marine environments. Presently, commercial fisheries for Eulachon are closed. Historically, commercial fisheries existed on the Fraser, Nass, Skeena, Klinaklini, and Kingcome Rivers. Presently, Recreational fishing is currently closed in all tidal waters, and is prohibited by nets within freshwater systems . First Nation fisheries for Eulachon once occurred on many rivers, but many are currently closed due to declines in runs. Eulachon is incidentally caught in commercial fisheries, primarily the shrimp trawl and groundfish trawl. Habitat degradation occurs at a local scale and varies between spawning rivers. Activities likely to impact Eulachon mortality include dredging, industrial and agricultural pollution, shoreline development, and forestry. However, it is unlikely that such threats would explain the nearly synchronous coast-wide decline of Eulachon that has occurred. Climate change effects may impact both the marine and freshwater habitats.
Eulachon was assessed by COSEWIC in May 2011 as Threatened for the Nass/Skeena Rivers population, and Endangered for the Central Pacific Coast and Fraser River populations. The Nass/Skeena Rivers population of Eulachon was re-assessed by COSEWIC in May 2013 as Special Concern. Due to conservation concerns Fisheries and Oceans has undertaken several specific activities since 1995 to protect Eulachon, including: closure of the commercial Eulachon fishery on the Fraser; suspension of dredging on the Fraser River during Eulachon spawning season; closure of the shrimp fishery in Queen Charlotte Sound; implementation of bycatch reduction measures in the commercial shrimp trawl fishery including bycatch reduction devices and potential closures when cumulative Eulachon bycatch level is reached; full closure of recreational harvesting for Eulachon in all tidal waters and freshwater systems; and an annual egg/larval survey to monitor stock on the Fraser in conjunction with First Nations.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
7 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (2 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (2 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
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