May 28, 2021 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released the management plan for the 2021 2J3KLPs Capelin Fishery today, announcing a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 14,533 tonnes – a 25% reduction from the quota in 2020.
The management strategy by DFO is not reflective of what harvesters see on the water, nor does it include accurate biomass estimates or fully consider predation. International environmental organizations have called for a closure of the harvest, which would have had huge impacts for fish harvesters and plant workers. Such a call is irresponsible because it ignores real impacts on the stock, such as predation, and focuses on the very small harvest that does not impact the stock trajectory.
In the 2021 technical briefing, DFO acknowledged that the biomass of 2J3KL capelin is primarily environmentally-driven, but did not have any specific figures to put forward on the impact of predation, particularly by seals.
“The commercial capelin landings in 2020 were less than 17,000 tonnes – and very valuable to rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Keith Sullivan, FFAW-Unifor President. “You cannot advocate for the sustainability of a healthy capelin stock by removing or reducing commercial fisheries and not taking action to control the size of the seal herd”.
Natural mortality by seals, finfish, seabirds, and other predators remains the largest factor in the stock’s health, with the capelin fishery having a historically low quota, taking 0.1% of the removals. While the assessment in March indicated that the biomass index is near the long-term average, harvesters’ observations of widespread abundance are not being captured with the existing DFO data.
Harvesters are also concerned that biomass is not accurately measured, and may not reflect the total size of the capelin stock. Due to COVID-19, the Spring Acoustic Survey did not take place in 2020, and the assessment is based on the capelin forecast model.
“Harvesters recognize the importance of capelin to the ecosystem and request DFO conduct more robust science to better understand the stock. FFAW and harvesters have offered to be a part of this much needed work to get accurate measurements of overall biomass, and will continue to do so”, concluded Sullivan.
Courtney Langille, FFAW-Unifor Communications Officer