The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) says the capelin fishery is supported by existing science, making calls for a closure of the commercial fishery hasty and misguided.
DFO’s most recent stock assessment for capelin in 2J3KL indicates that the biomass index this year is near the long-term average — granted, at low levels — and likely to be similar to that of 2020, with the potential of a small increase. ASP says the fishery has taken place at lower levels, like 2010, and the stock rebounded from then.
“That alone, we believe, supports a fishery. We are likely at the same level as last year according to DFO science and there is a 30+% chance, again, according to science, that we will be above it,” says Derek Butler, Executive Director of ASP. “Calls for a moratorium assumes removals from the fishery can have an impact on the resource trajectory, but that does not appear evident at all.”
The commercial fishery removals last year were 16,000 MT, or a small fraction of the total removals by other sources like finfish, marine mammals and seabirds.
“You’d have a decimal and few zeros in there when you work it back to the biomass,” Butler says “and no one can think that fraction could drive the stock trajectory. The nature of the fishery and when it occurs means its’ impacts are not what some assume, and that is according to DFO.”
“Capelin are harvested in the last few weeks before they spawn, the point in the life cycle when they die, and so the harvest does not appear to have a large effect on the availability of food for other species,” adds Butler. “That’s what DFO said and we agree. A moratorium in the hope it might matter is not an appropriate fisheries management response or tool.”
But Butler says ASP is on the same page as those calling for more science.
“No one has a more vested interest in the sustainability of capelin than the fishing industry,” says Butler.
“We want the species to survive, we want it to be there as a food source for other species in the ecosystem, and we want it to be there for generations to come, so that the people of our province who are employed by the fishery continue to derive a livelihood in the future. Additional science, including more acoustic work, coverage of the full stock area, all that and more would be good.”
A decision on the capelin fishery holds thousands of jobs in the balance as well as plant viability for a number of operators in the province.