March 25, 2020
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) released a summary from the latest stock assessment for capelin in 2J3KL this week, predicting slight declines in the 2020 season. However, natural mortality from predation remains the largest factor in the stock’s health compared to the very small capelin fishery.
DFO Science suggests that the amount of mature capelin will likely be reduced somewhat in the 2020 season. Harvesters remain concerned that biomass measured in the spring acoustic survey may not reflect what is seen in 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. Natural mortality continues to be the driver of this stock’s health – something that DFO has failed to fully understand due to a lack of science on seal populations,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
“Harvesters saw an abundance of capelin the last two years. The aggregations were larger and more frequent, and as a result we caught more capelin with considerably less effort the last two seasons. But that information isn’t formally taken into account by DFO Science,” says Inshore Council member Dennis Chaulk, who represented harvesters in his area at the science assessment meeting.
While the capelin stock assessment did acknowledge that removals from the fishery are small in comparison to predation, predation levels are likely underestimated, with seal, whale and seabird predation not included in overall predation estimates. Additional research is needed on predation within the ecosystem and the relationship seals have on capelin and northern cod stocks.
“Harvesters are deeply frustrated with the lack of consideration for seals on predation for important species like capelin and northern cod. DFO has dragged their feet on conducting science on seals but as harvesters we know seals are more abundant and widespread than ever before, and we know that predation is a significant factor for the health of these fish,” says Eldred Woodford, Inshore Council member from Herring Neck.
Capelin advisory meetings for the 2020 capelin fishery are set to take place this week, however due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, fleet representatives will join by teleconference to consult with DFO on planning for the upcoming fishery. Updates will be provided to members when available.
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