Eulachon (Nass/Skeena Rivers population)

Thaleichthys pacificus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

Eulachon are anadromous fish endemic to the Northeastern Pacific, and are 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 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.

Habitat

Eulachon are found throughout the Northeast Pacific from the eastern Bering Sea to Northern California. They spend more than 95 percent of their life in the marine environment, and only enter freshwater systems during spawning, egg and early larval stages. Within British Columbia, Eulachon are believed to occur in at least 38 glacially fed rivers.

Threats

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. Recreational fishing in freshwater systems with nets is prohibited and recreational harvesting in all tidal waters is currently closed due to conservation concerns. First Nation fisheries for Eulachon once occurred on many rivers, but many are currently not active due to declines in runs. Eulachon is incidentally caught in commercial fisheries, primarily 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.

Further Information

Eulachon was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in May 2011 as three Designatable Units (DU) within British Columbia waters. These three DUs, or populations, were designated as the Fraser River population (assessed as Endangered), the Central Pacific Coast population (Endangered), and the Nass/Skeena Rivers population (Threatened). In November 2011, COSEWIC considered new information on the Nass/Skeena Rivers population and underwent a reassessment, completed in May 2013 with a reassessed status of Special Concern. Eulachon are not listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, the Province of British Columbia ‘blue' listed Eulachon in 2000, identifying them as particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events. In 2010, the United States listed the southern Eulachon population as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Since 1995, DFO has undertaken specific activities to protect Eulachon including:

  • closure of the commercial Eulachon fishery on the Fraser River,
  • 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
  • an annual egg/larval survey to monitor stock on the Fraser River in conjunction with First Nations, and
  • full closure of recreational harvesting for Eulachon in all tidal waters.

The Fraser River and Central Pacific Coast populations of Eulachon are currently being considered for listing as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The Nass/Skeena Rivers population is being considered for listing as Special Concern under SARA. DFO invites all First Nations, stakeholders and members of the public to provide their opinions and feedback in the listing decision. For more information, please visit the SARA regional consultations website or the SARA Registry.

Eulachon (Nass/Skeena Rivers population)

Eulachon

Eulachon - Thaleichthys pacificus

Scientific name: Thaleichthys pacificus
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern (May 2013)
Region: British Columbia

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