Capelin in Crisis: Urgent Action Needed to Rebuild Abundance - Oceana Canada

Report | April, 2022

Capelin in Crisis: Urgent Action Needed to Rebuild Abundance


Capelin are small, fast-growing forage fish that are found across the north Atlantic ocean and are critically important to the ocean ecosystem in northeast Newfoundland. Many species such as puffins, humpback whales and Atlantic cod rely on them for food.

The 2J3KL capelin population collapsed in the early 1990s and has never been given the chance to recover. A fishery is still allowed to operate, targeting the eggs of female capelin. Not only are adults removed from the population, but the next generation is lost too.

Oceana Canada conducted new research in 2022 to assign a provisional health status to capelin. According to this assessment, capelin are overfished and would be considered critical under Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Precautionary Approach Framework, meaning conservation actions should become the top priority. Capelin biomass, or amount of fish in the population, is estimated at only 18 per cent of what is needed to support a sustainable fishery, where harvesting can occur without harming the population.

Capelin is in a dire state with a poor outlook for the future unless action is taken to significantly shift their management approach. Oceana Canada is calling for DFO to immediately close the 2J3KL capelin fishery.