Oceana Canada to DFO: Stop Overfishing Capelin and Rebuild Stock for Food, Ocean and Economic Security - Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada to DFO: Stop Overfishing Capelin and Rebuild Stock for Food, Ocean and Economic Security

New survey finds most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians support pausing capelin fishery to rebuild it

Press Release Date: April 26, 2023

Media contacts: Vaishali Dassani, Oceana Canada, vdassani@oceana.ca, 647-294-3335;
Angela Pinzon, Pilot PMR, angela.pinzon@pilotpmr.com, 647-295-0517

OTTAWA, ON – With the 2023 capelin fishing quota announcement just around the corner, new polling commissioned by Oceana Canada from leading market research firm Abacus Data found that the vast majority – 84 per cent – of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador care deeply about rebuilding local ocean ecosystems and support pausing the commercial capelin fishery until the population recovers.

Capelin is a main food source for many animals, such as northern cod, puffins and whales, and is culturally important for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians through its historical use as food and fertilizer and the annual capelin roll that brings residents to the beaches each summer. However, this vital connection to the ocean continues to be threatened by mismanagement and overfishing.

Last year, the government’s decision to maintain a harvest quota of 14,533 tonnes followed a decades-long pattern of overfishing. The 2J3KL capelin population has been critically depleted for more than 30 years and is at just seven per cent of its pre-collapse level. Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) latest science assessment found that the stock is deep in the “critical” zone, where fishing should stop, at just 41 per cent of the threshold between critical and cautious zones.

“Capelin has been in a critically depleted state for decades and the harmful effects of this weakened population are reverberating across the entire marine ecosystem,” said Jack Daly, Marine Scientist, Oceana Canada. “If the government is serious about rebuilding fisheries such as northern cod and other commercially and culturally important groundfish, it has to protect capelin, which feeds so many other species off our coasts. It is now time for the government to make the science-based decision to pause the fishery and allow it to rebuild.”

Oceana Canada is urging DFO to take the following immediate actions:

  1. Close the commercial capelin fishery to rebuild this critically depleted population
  2. Develop a rebuilding plan that is consistent with the Fisheries Act rebuilding regulations
  3. Set transparent, science-based benchmarks for the population, while strengthening scientific assessments and fisheries monitoring, before resuming the commercial fishery

Oceana Canada’s research also found that an overwhelming 82 per cent of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador feel the Canadian government should do more to protect and manage fish populations like capelin to benefit local ecosystems, culture and the fishing industry.

“With this year’s quota announcement, DFO must follow the best available evidence to rebuild the stock for the benefit of those most affected by its current state. Sadly, a long history of reckless management decisions now requires drastic management interventions to promote the recovery of this critically depleted population,” said Dr. Robert Rangeley, Director of Science, Oceana Canada. “This must be the year we make wise decisions about managing essential fish populations.”

Visit here to sign the petition to rebuild Canada’s wild fish populations and click here for the full market research results.


Oceana Canada was established as an independent charity in 2015 and is part of the largest international advocacy group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana Canada has successfully campaigned to ban single-use plastics, end the shark fin trade, make rebuilding depleted fish populations the law, improve the way fisheries are managed and protect marine habitat. We work with civil society, academics, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and the federal government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits and protect our future. Find out more at www.oceana.ca.