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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Eulachon past and present Moody, Megan Felicity


The eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), a small anadromous smelt (Family Osmeridae) found only along the Northwest Pacific Coast, is poorly understood. Many spawning populations have suffered declines but as their historic status is relatively unknown and the fisheries poorly documented, it is difficult to study the contributing factors. This thesis provides a survey of eulachon fisheries throughout its geographical range and three analyses aimed at improving our understanding of past and present fisheries, coast-wide abundance status, and the factors which may be impacting these populations. An in-depth view of the Nuxalk Nation eulachon fishery on the Bella Coola River, Central Coast, BC, is provided. The majority of catches were used for making eulachon grease, a food item produced by First Nations by fermenting, then cooking the fish to release the grease. Catch statistics were kept yearly from 1945-1989 but have since, rarely been recorded. Using traditional and local ecological knowledge, catches were reconstructed based on estimated annual grease production. Run size trends were also created using local Fisheries Officers and Nuxalk interview comments. A fuzzy logic expert system was designed to estimate the relative abundance of fifteen eulachon systems. The expert system uses catch data to determine the exploitation status of a fishery and combines it with other data sources (e.g., CPUE) to estimate an abundance status index. The number of sources depended on the existing data and varied from one to eight. Using designed heuristic rules and by adjusting weighting parameters a final index was produced. Results suggest that there have been recent and extended declines in several eulachon rivers particularly the Klamath, California; Bella Coola, BC; Wannock, BC; and Kitimat, BC. Seven of the fifteen abundance time-series were used to evaluate the potential relationships between the declines and some of the factors that impact eulachon. Results suggest increases in shrimp and hake catches, seal and sea lion abundance, and sea surface temperatures were weakly associated with the declines. But contrary to expectations, adult hake biomass showed a positive association with four eulachon relative abundance time-series, suggesting that common environmental factors influenced both species.

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