Standing Committee can’t delay on capelin monitoring | WWF-Canada

Standing Committee can’t delay on capelin monitoring

Posted on 23 March 2017
Capelin on a beach in Newfoundland
© Steph Nicholl / WWF-Canada

ST JOHN’S, March 23, 2017 —  Annual monitoring of capelin stocks around Newfoundland and Labrador should begin immediately for the health of the forage fish species, WWF-Canada says. 
In its report on rebuilding the northern cod fishery,  Charting a Sustainable Future, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommends that DFO carry out annual stock assessments on capelin, cod’s main food source, starting this year. WWF-Canada raised the alarm over a lack of information on Canadian forage fish stocks in its Food For All report last July, and has repeatedly called for annual assessments of capelin. 

The Standing Committee report recognizes that capelin are key to the recovery of northern cod, the iconic species for which a fishing moratorium was declared in 1992. 
The report makes 10 recommendations, including: 

  • Annual stock assessments of capelin (as was the practice before 2008) instead of every two years, the current practice;
  • Completing annual assessments of northern cod stocks;
  • Hiring new DFO scientists and investing in science;
  • Developing sustainable fishery management practices.

What are capelin?

  • Found in the cold waters of the north-western Atlantic, capelin are small fish that are an important source of food for seabirds, seals and whales, and are the preferred food of northern cod.
  • There are four capelin 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.
  • There is a lucrative market for roe, which is primarily sold to the Asian market for use on sushi as masago (orange eggs). The current capelin fishery targets large, egg-bearing females. 

 Aurelie Cosandey-Godin, senior specialist for oceans with WWF-Canada, said:
“WWF-Canada is pleased that the Standing Committee’s report acknowledges the current lack of data for the capelin fishery, and that it recommends annual assessments for capelin. Without monitoring from acoustic surveys, it’s impossible for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to get an accurate abundance estimate, which should be used to inform management of capelin fisheries around Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The report Charting a Sustainable Future connects the health of capelin stocks to the recovery of northern cod. Cod depend on capelin for food, and without them, the population will never recover to levels which will sustain a commercial northern cod fishery. Fisheries and Oceans Canada should move toward implementing 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 like capelin and dependent predators like northern cod.”

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Capelin on a beach in Newfoundland
© Steph Nicholl / WWF-Canada Enlarge