Oceana Canada Calls on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to Pause Capelin Fishery - Oceana Canada

Oceana Canada Calls on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to Pause Capelin Fishery

Press Release Date: March 17, 2021

HALIFAX – Today, Oceana Canada calls on Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, to immediately pause the capelin fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador. Forage fish such as capelin form the foundation of healthy ocean ecosystems. Capelin is an essential food source for countless creatures, including whales, seabirds and many fish, including Atlantic cod. The important role of capelin off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador was acknowledged by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) during a recent briefing summarizing the science assessment for this stock. 

The assessment showed that the 2J3KL capelin stock size remains at low levels with a poor outlook. This finding will now be used to inform management decisions, including setting a quota for capelin that can be harvested this season. It has been three decades since this stock collapsed in the early 1990s, and today the biomass index is still only six per cent of pre-collapse estimates. Yet, there continues to be a capelin fishery, while species that depend on them, such as cod, are starving. 

“We are pleased to see DFO acknowledging that forage fish like capelin are essential to rebuilding ocean abundance,” says Dr. Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada. “Now Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan must make decisions about this ecologically important and depleted population based on science and international best practices. That means the fishery should be paused until the stock recovers, reference points are established, and precautionary quotas are set based on capelin’s vital role in the ecosystem.” 

Rangeley adds: “The onus is on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to follow best science-based practices to ensure that the fishery is doing no harm to the stock or the ecosystem it supports.”

The foundation of Canada’s blue economy is our wild fish populations. It is not too late to bring our oceans back to abundance. Allowing our fish populations to rebuild will lead to greater value and long-term sustainable fisheries. The most important principle in the management of forage fish is that a smaller proportion of harvestable biomass should be taken than in other commercial fisheries. 

Only a quarter of Canada’s fisheries are considered healthy. Fisheries drive our coastal economies and seafood industry, help shape our culture and sustain our communities. To realize Canada’s full potential as a fishing nation, Oceana Canada is advocating for the government to implement robust rebuilding plans backed by strong regulations in Canada’s newly amended Fisheries Act. To learn more about the state of Canada’s fisheries visit FisheryAudit.ca.

To request an interview with Dr. Robert Rangeley please contact Kathleen Munro kathleen.munro@pilotpmr.com 902.789.3165 or Tammy Thorne tthorne@oceana.ca 437.247.0954

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 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.