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MEDIA RELEASE: Capelin Science Gives Inadequate Picture of Stock Health

March 25, 2019

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Today, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) provided an industry technical briefing on capelin and confirmed that fishery removals are having no measurable impact on the stock. However, FFAW-Unifor has significant concerns that science is not delivering an adequate picture of stock health for the species.

“Current science for capelin is lacking in several key areas,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “Important information from the fishery is not included, nor are key factors such as seal predation.”

The science assessment mainly uses a spring acoustic survey to measure the health of the stock and there is no estimate for spawning stock biomass. Information from the survey can be differ widely from what fish harvesters see on the water.

While the spring survey showed an increase in 2018 from the previous year, there was no estimate of biomass during the fishery.  Because there is no estimate of biomass during the fishery, harvesters’ observations of widespread abundance are not being captured with the existing DFO data.

“Harvesters saw an abundance of capelin last year. The aggregations were larger and more frequent, and as a result we caught more capelin with considerably less effort during the 2018 fishery. But that information isn’t taken into account by DFO science,” says Inshore Council member Dennis Chaulk, who represented harvesters in his area at the science advisory meetings.

Moreover, DFO did not consider important information on species predation that could significantly impact the health of the stock. Additional research is needed on predation within the ecosystem and the relationship seals have on capelin and northern cod stocks.

“DFO has dragged their feet on conducting science on the impact seal predation has on several recovering fish species, including capelin and northern cod. We know that seals are more abundant than ever before, and we know that predation is a significant factor for the health of these fish. Yet DFO has not completed any science on seal predators in years,” says Sullivan.

“Coastal communities depend on healthy ecosystems for survival, and as groundfish recover it is of utmost importance that we have a more accurate picture of the capelin biomass,” he adds.


For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at or 709-743-4445.