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MEDIA RELEASE: 2023 Capelin Fishery Highlights Stock Abundance

July 26, 2023

Capelin harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting positive catch rates and an abundant resource so far this fishing season. Following DFO’s technical briefing on the 2J3KL capelin stock in March of this year, fish harvesters remain optimistic that more favourable environmental conditions are leading to stock growth. The Union that represents all commercial capelin harvesters in the province continues to call on the Federal Government to increase scientific understanding of the stock.

“Our members are very concerned about the influence environmental groups are having on federal government management decisions pertaining to important commercial fisheries,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty. “DFO Science themselves reported that the increase of zooplankton is indicative of improving environmental conditions for capelin – and yet they actively find ways to limit the small commercial fishery and ignore the economic and cultural significance. For DFO, a lack of information is licence to limit commercial access,” Pretty says.

Moreover, capelin stock assessments have acknowledged that removals from the fishery are very small in comparison to predation.

The 2023 NL commercial capelin fishery has a quota of 14,533 metric tonnes (MT), a rollover of the same quota from 2022. DFO has acknowledged the biomass of 2J3KL capelin is primarily environmentally driven, but does not have data on the impact of predation, particularly by seals. DFO has failed to undertake additional science advocated for by the Union to allow for improved measurement of stock health. Current science only focuses on area 3L, and significant shifts in spawning locations and behaviors observed by harvesters are not being captured as a result – notably movement of the resource further north and different spawning patterns, which have been brought to previous stock assessments by harvesters.

“Sustainability is important for us to maintain so we can continue into the future,” says Ivan Batten, fish harvester from the Avalon Peninsula. “It’s clear that DFO is not prioritizing comprehensive science programs to truly understand commercial stock health, and that has a direct impact on coastal communities when DFO chooses to limit the commercial harvest rather than do the needed work,” Batten says.

“Environmental organizations seem to assume that a fishery stoppage is the straight-forward solution to stock rebuilding,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty. “Environmental organizations have called for a closure of the harvest, which would have had significant impacts on fish harvesters, plant workers and the economies of rural communities. Commercial landings are less than 15,000MT which is modest in terms of impacts on the resource but very valuable to rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” concluded Pretty.


For media inquiries, please  email Courtney Glode, FFAW-Unifor Director of Public Affairs, at