Atlantic Hagfish

Exploratory Fisheries and Biological Resource Assessment of Atlantic Hagfish

Lead Researcher: Dr. Scott M. Grant

Collaborators: Wade Hiscock, Quinlan Brothers, Andrew Daley, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation

Summary: Fisheries the world over are susceptible to economic and ecological uncertainty. Nowhere is this more evident than in new emerging fisheries which are typically developed quickly and in the absence of science. Recently (2001), Fisheries and Oceans Canada introduced the New Emerging Fisheries policy intent on providing a reasonable scientific basis for the management and long-term sustainability of new fishery resources.

In many ways this policy has helped to foster greater industry stewardship as well as cooperation and understanding among industry, science, and management. Nowhere is this more evident than within the Atlantic hagfish (Myxine glutinosa) and sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa) fisheries currently under development in the Newfoundland and Labrador region.‌

Identified in Canadian Science and Management Workshops as a model to the approach of new fisheries development and stakeholder cooperation, CSAR has been leading a multi-year Atlantic hagfish resource assessment that has established the maturity schedule of hagfish in order to set a biologically sustainable rather than market driven minimum legal size and incorporated this information into gear selectivity experiments to maximize conservation of the resource at the onset of the commercial fishery.

The study provided baseline information on the reproductive potential, sex ratios, and nature of the spawning season and reproductive cycle, and established geographic distribution and temperature mediated habitat preferences, all in conjunction with annual research surveys conducted from industry vessels and exploratory fisheries to monitor fishery independent and fishery dependent trends in biomass indices.