Eptatretus stoutii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Myxini Myxiniformes Myxinidae

Scientific Name: Eptatretus stoutii (Lockington, 1878)
Common Name(s):
English Pacific Hagfish, California Hagfish
Spanish Bruja Pintada, Mixinido del Pacifico
Bdellostoma stoutii Lockington, 1878

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2009-12-11
Assessor(s): Mincarone, M.M.
Reviewer(s): Polidoro, B., Knapp, L. & Carpenter, K.E.
This species is only known from the northeastern Pacific, where it is heavily targeted in at least half of range for the Asian eel-skin leather market. Reported landings for this species are mixed with the Black Hagfish (E. deani) and have been quite variable in both total catch and effort over the past 20 years (1988-2007). The reasons for the variability in catch and effort trends are not well understood. This species is therefore currently listed as Data Deficient. More research is needed to quantify the impacts of fishing on this species population.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is found in the Eastern North Pacific, from Nootka Bay, Vancouver, Canada to Pt. San Pablo, Baja California, Mexico. Hart (1973) and Mecklenburg et al. (2002) reported that Alaskan records have not been confirmed.
Countries occurrence:
Canada; Mexico; United States
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northeast
Additional data:
Lower depth limit (metres):966
Upper depth limit (metres):16
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:This species is known to be abundant across its distribution range. It is known to be most abundant off the coast of Northern California and Oregon.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is found on the continental shelves and upper slopes at depths from 16-966 m. Environmental information from Mayne Bay on Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, indicates that Eptatretus stoutii occurs on substrates consisting mainly by silt and in waters characterized by high near-bottom salinity (31-32‰) but low surface salinity (24‰) into which they occasionally swim (McInerney and Evans 1970).

Based on Oregon hagfish fishery, Barss (1993) sampled 924 Pacific hagfish from commercial and research catches, from 1988 through 1989. Mean length of fish sampled from commercial landings was 39.6cm. Fifty percent maturity for male and female was 35 cm and 42 cm, respectively. Examination of gonads indicates that spawning occurs throughout the year. Mature Pacific hagfish females averaged 28 eggs over 5 mm in length.

Of 309 specimens examined by Howard Ayres, 182 (59%) were males, 121 (39%) females, and six (2%) hermaphrodites (Conel, 1931). Also, of 870 specimens examined by Wisner and McMillan (1990), in which the sex was reliably determined, 51% were male and 49% female. These ratios contrast notably with other eastern Pacific hagfishes, in which females dominated by 60-74%. The largest egg found measured 28.6 x 7.5 mm, obtained from a 435 mm female. The number of developed eggs (20mm or longer) varies from 11 (23 x 7 mm) in a 330 mm female to 48 (20 x 6 mm) in one of 515 mm TL.

This species inhabits fine silt and clay bottoms. It enters large fishes by way of the mouth and anus and feed on its viscera and muscles and may greatly diminish catches taken with fixed gears. This species produces mucilaginous slime when harassed (Hart 1973). The copulatory organ is absent in this species (Patzner 1998).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is targeted in trap fisheries along the west coast of North America for the Asian leather market. Whole frozen fish are shipped to South Korea for the eel skin leather market.

In 1988, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began sampling and monitoring the development of a new fishery for Pacific Hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) and Black Hagfish (E. deani) (Barss 1993). Hagfish landings by Oregon trap vessels ranged from 11 metric tonnes in 1988 to a peak of 340 metric tonnes in 1992. In the 1988 catch, about 35% (4,165kg) was E. deani, the rest was E. stoutii. The estimate of catch per trap using “Korean traps” was 1.4 kg.

In 1989, three vessels landed 156 tonnes of hagfish at Newport and Astoria, with a decreased CPUE catch of about 0.8 kg of hagfish per trap. In 1990, the catch dropped with 11 vessels landing 75 tonnes of hagfish from 102 trips (0.73 tonnes/trip) but since then there has been an increase in total hagfish landings and CPUE but the catch has mostly been comprised of E. stoutii. In 1991, 12 vessels landed 124 metric tonnes from 131 trips (0.94 tonnes/trip), and in 1992, 15 vessels landed 340 metric tonnes of hagfish from 310 trips (1.09 tonnes/trip) (Barss 1993). Mixed catch reported from the US to the FAO, also shows a variable but increasing trend in landings from a low of 100 tonnes in 2000 to a peak of 600 tonnes in 2005 (FishSTAT 2009).

Catch data from British Columbia is very low, but suggests that there has been a decline in effort along with decline in metric tonnes landed. However it is not known how much of this decline was due to the poor quality of skins that were produced, or a decline in abundance of the hagfish, or to competition from the east coast fisheries.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no known conservation measures in place, but regulations are in the process of being implemented to manage fishing effort.

Citation: Mincarone, M.M. 2011. Eptatretus stoutii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T196044A8997397. . Downloaded on 21 September 2018.
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