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The status of Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) in Great Slave Lake

Central and Arctic Regional Advisory Meeting

January 26-27, 2011
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Chairperson: Ross Tallman


The Lake Whitefish commercial fishery on Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada, has been operating since 1945 and is managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) with input from the Great Slave Lake Advisory Committee (GSLAC). Lake Whitefish account for 70 to 95 % of the total annual harvest combined with Lake Trout. The Lake Whitefish fishery is controlled by quotas which are assigned to each of the seven management areas of the lake.  The fishery has been subsidized since the development of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation in 1969 and is considered to be economically marginal.  Annual harvest levels of both species peaked in 1948-49 at 4,288 tonnes, declining steadily to approximately 1,500 tonnes in 1968-69 and remained at this level until the early 1990s. Since then, the annual harvest has been steadily declining to 340 tonnes in 2008-09. Since the inception of the fishery, a series of biological observations, including the collection of age structures from fish plants and sporadic surveys to produce an abundance index, have been conducted by DFO. All available data during 1972-2004 are being considered for the current Lake Whitefish status assessment.

DFO Science was asked by Fisheries Management to provide science advice on the sustainable harvest level for Lake Whitefish for each subdivision in Great Slave Lake.  The initial step in the process to develop science advice was to integrate the accumulated biological and fishery-related information into a Lake Whitefish stock assessment dataset.  Two Science advisory meetings are planned to provide advice on Lake Whitefish. The current meeting is being held to review the historic information available for this fishery to better understand population dynamics and the effects of harvesting on Lake Whitefish in Great Slave Lake.  A second meeting will be held in the near future to update the assessment with the results of ongoing research and to provide specific advice on sustainable harvest levels. 


  1. Review spatiotemporal variations in Lake Whitefish length, weight, age, condition indices, and age-based growth;
  2. Examine the potential associations of temporal patterns in population dynamics with changes in the population production, exploitation and abiotic environmental factors.

Expected Publications

A Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) Research Document will be produced from the working paper presented and reviewed at the meeting. The advice from the meeting will be published as a CSAS Science Advisory Report. A proceedings report summarizing the deliberations of the participants will be published in the CSAS Proceedings Series.


Invitations will be sent to GSLAC members, DFO Science and Fisheries Management and external experts from the University of Waterloo, Canada, and the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, Michigan USA.


Participation to CSAS peer review meetings is by invitation only.

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