Results of an experimental fishery on the crayfish Orconectes virilis

TitleResults of an experimental fishery on the crayfish Orconectes virilis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1977
AuthorsMomot WT, Gowing H
JournalJournal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada

Populations of the crayfish Orconectes virilis were exploited using the Paulik-Bayliff modification of the Ricker model in two small lakes. After harvesting with traps at maximum sustained yield (MSY) for 3 yr, fishing effort was increased fourfold in one lake, West Lost, for two successive seasons, while in North Twin Lake it was not changed. In West Lost yields were stable during MSY; yields increased with overexploitation, but growth and recruitment declined. Distortions occurred in the age composition of the catch. In North Twin this pattern was repeated except that in 1975 the catch dropped drastically even though fishing effort had not been increased. Because of the declining recruitment, North Twin was actually overfished by about 20% in 1974 and greatly overfished in 1975. Decreased recruitment in both lakes can be attributed to two factors: (1) a decreased survival of hatchlings in both lakes due to a decline in nursery habitat; as a consequence the stock-recruitment relationship was altered; and (2) an increase in the density of age I (subadult) females due to the selective fishery for males; as a result density-dependent mechanisms lowered the survival of females from age I to II, producing fewer spawning adults. However, the high density of these age II females at age I decreased the egg production per adult female. The changes in the productivity of the lakes for crayfish during the period of exploitation was related to loss of microhabitat for hatchlings. This change in productivity offset the benefits of MSY management and resulted in a drastic drop in stocks when deliberate overfishing took place. West Lost gave good yields prior to its certain collapse. Yields in weight were an unreliable indicator of the impact of the fishery.