St. John’s, NL, April 29, 2022 — The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) says recent calls for a moratorium on capelin are misguided, and a capelin fishery at low levels is more than supported by the data.
“ASP appreciates the vital role of capelin in our ecosystem and our economy,” says Derek Butler, Executive Director, ASP.
Butler says the science shows favourable environmental conditions for capelin in 2021, earlier beach spawning which is better, good condition of the fish, and larger fish. Things are going in the right direction.
For those who point to the importance of capelin for cod, Butler says the science shows things improving there as well.
“We see increasing capelin in both cod and turbot diets, which is also positive. That stems no doubt from the sizeable increase in capelin observed in 3K in the fall survey in 2021. So that is more good evidence,” adds Butler.
Butler says the challenge in the fishery each year is pacing the season to ensure the quota is caught over various bays to the benefit of all stakeholders.
“When you look at yearly conduct of the fishery, given the low levels we fish at, we don’t have a problem finding fish, the catch per unit effort (CPUE) is good and constant over time. Our challenge is to pace ourselves,” says Butler.
What is more, says Butler, the math is against those who argue that the removals from the commercial fishery is driving the stock dynamics.
“If you consider the proportion of the catch that would die naturally in the spawning process, the percentage of females in the catch, at about half, and then the amount of females that would make it back into the population, it really doesn’t hold. A few thousand tonnes of capelin, perhaps as low as 2000 mt or 3000 mt, does not drive this stock dynamic. That’s what we’re talking about here,” adds Butler.
Butler says the challenge in capelin is getting more science to support what the existing science already shows, to understand the abundance of the resource in the absence of complete and broader acoustic surveys and the missing 3L fall survey last year. Those gaps are not grounds to park a fishery at such low volumes, which is inherently precautionary.