The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released the management plan for the 2019 2J3KL Capelin Fishery this afternoon, announcing a 15% increase to this year’s quota for a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 22,796 MT.
While an increase is positive news for harvesters, last year’s fishery saw a 35% decrease from the 2017 fishery, meaning this year’s 15% increase is a small respite from the decline borne by harvesters in 2018. The management strategy by DFO is not reflective of what harvesters see on the water, nor does it include accurate biomass estimates or species predation.
The Standing Fish Price Setting Panel announced its decision for capelin last month, selecting the position of FFAW for a price of $0.35/lb, which is a 46% increase from last year’s price of $0.24 and 5 cents higher than ASP’s offer of $0.30. This significantly higher price combined with an increased quota is good news for harvesters, but more must be done to ensure DFO Management has an accurate picture of the stock.
“Current science for capelin is lacking in several key areas,” explains FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan. “Important information from the fishery is not included, nor are key factors such as seal predation.”
While the spring survey showed an increase in 2018 from the previous year, there was no estimate of biomass during the fishery. As a result, harvesters’ observations of widespread abundance are not being captured with the existing DFO data.
“Harvesters saw an abundance of capelin last year. The aggregations were larger and more frequent, and as a result we caught more capelin with considerably less effort during the 2018 fishery. But that information isn’t taken into account by DFO science,” says Inshore Council member Dennis Chaulk, who represented harvesters in his area at the science advisory meetings.
Moreover, DFO did not consider important information on species predation that could significantly impact the health of the stock. Additional research is needed on predation within the ecosystem and the relationship seals have on capelin and northern cod stocks.
“DFO has dragged their feet on conducting science on the impact seal predation has on several fish species, including capelin and northern cod. We know that seals are more abundant than ever before, and we know that predation is a significant factor for the health of these fish. Yet DFO has not completed any science on seal predation in years,” says Sullivan.