Newfoundland capelin fishery needs better monitoring | WWF-Canada

Newfoundland capelin fishery needs better monitoring

Posted on 25 August 2016
Capelin spawning on a Newfoundland beach
© Anna Olafsdottir / WWF-Canada
ST JOHN’S, Aug. 25, 2016 — The capelin fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador needs better monitoring, WWF-Canada said today in response to this call to close the capelin fishery completely.
In early August, WWF-Canada released a report on forage fish, Food for All, warning that in 75 per cent of Canadian forage fish fisheries, the status of the stock is unknown – including in all capelin fisheries. These small fish are vitally important to starving predators such as whales and seabirds, as well as critical to the recovery of commercial fisheries such as northern cod.

“Capelin fisheries should be assessed on a yearly basis and populations should be monitored using acoustic surveys, so an accurate abundance estimate is used when determining what the total allowable catch should be,” says Aurelie Cosandey-Godin, a senior specialist for oceans with WWF-Canada. “Fisheries and Oceans Canada should implement a modern, ecosystem-based fisheries approach – one that considers the needs of multiple species, as opposed to a single stock – to ensure the long-term viability of forage fish and dependent predators.”
Forage fish experts from WWF-Canada are available for interviews.
What are capelin?
  • Capelin are small fish that are an important source of food for seabirds, whales, seals and several species of groundfish, including cod.
  • Capelin are found in the cold waters of the north-western Atlantic, particularly around Newfoundland and Labrador.
Commercial fishery
  • There are four fisheries in Atlantic Canada: two in the Gulf of St Lawrence and two in Newfoundland and Labrador. The commercial fishery is worth about $10 million a year.
  • Capelin were traditionally fished in the St. Lawrence Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence for use as fertilizer or bait.
  • Today, there is a lucrative market for roe, which is primarily sold to the Japanese market for use on sushi as masago (orange eggs). The current fishery targets large, egg-bearing females. 
WWF-Canada calls for:
  • Acknowledgement of the current lack of data for the capelin fishery, and for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and relevant stakeholders to develop a plan to address the gaps;.
  • Capelin fishery assessments to be conducted annually (as was the practice before 2008) instead of every two years in Newfoundland Labrador.
  • Acoustic surveys of the Gulf of St Lawrence, where there is currently no monitoring of capelin abundance. This is the most accurate way to assess capelin abundance. 

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For further information
Catharine Tunnacliffe, communications specialist,, +1 647-624-5279.
Capelin spawning on a Newfoundland beach
© Anna Olafsdottir / WWF-Canada Enlarge