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Capelin fishery write-off; 20,000t left in water as FFAW refuses to allow DFO to issue permits

That’s what the 2022 capelin season amounts to for the inshore fleet off the province east coast as the fish migrate back offshore, and about 20,000 tonnes of quota is left in the water. Capelin must be sampled in waters off the province's east coast before the fishery can open, and DFO won't issue sampling permits without the FFAW’s say-so.

According to DFO statistics, last year this province's inshore fleet harvested 22,000 tonnes of capelin, with a landed value of more than $17 million.

The FFAW wouldn’t give the green-light for capelin sampling because some — not all — capelin processors are prepared to buy.

The decision process is outlined in this SEA-NL post: DFO responds: industry/FFAW decide when east coast capelin fishery opens

Veteran owner-operators in the mobile, and fixed-gear fleets say most capelin has spawned, and is migrating back offshore so the opportunity for a 2022 fishery is practically lost to them.

Many enterprise owners say a single buyer should have been enough to get a fishery going, and the FFAW doesn't speak for them in holding back the commercial fishery.

That said, the union decides when to initiate a so-called "capelin call" for stakeholder input, and the FFAW's recommendation dictates when DFO will also sampling to take place in different zones.

This year's capelin fishery fiasco is a clear example of the age-old complaint on wharfs around the province that owner-operators can't tell the fishery manager from the union.


In other Atlantic provinces once a capelin fishery is opened the fish doesn’t have to be sampled. Same goes with capelin caught off western Newfoundland in the Gulf, where the fishery has wrapped up for the season.

The capelin price for this province's inshore fleet was set in mid June at 35¢/lb for Grade A, a nose dive from the high of 46.5¢/lb paid out in 2021.

The total 2022 capelin quota for Newfoundland and Labrador is 24,758 tonnes — including 14,533 tonnes off Labrador and eastern/southern Newfoundland, and 10,225 tonnes for the Gulf (fishing zones 4RST).

Iceland’s 2021/22 capelin quota is 904,200 tonnes, a sevenfold increase over last year’s quota and a dramatic shift from 2019 and 2020 when there was no capelin quota.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

To read more about SEA-NL, or to join the non-profit organization please visit

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