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DFO responds: industry/FFAW decide when east coast capelin fishery opens

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in this province responded today to SEA-NL questions regarding why the east coast fishery has yet to open, and who makes the call — DFO, or the FFAW. The short answer is the union/industry makes the call, only some owner-operators say that's not working out.


"There are a number of factors DFO takes into consideration when establishing the season opening dates for the capelin fishery, and these include; weather conditions, conservation of the stock, market factors as well as stakeholder input.

With respect to stakeholder input; for both (Gulf and east coast) stocks there are established advisory committees in place which include, among others, processor and harvester representatives.

The current process for making recommendations to DFO on opening dates has been established through these respective forums and have been longstanding.

Generally opening dates are informed by sampling results which look at the percentage of females, size and roe content, the percentage of red feed and distribution of capelin in a quota area.

Conditions differ across the region, and it is normal for season opening dates to vary between specific areas and gear types.

On the east coast, there are a large number of stakeholders and participants in the fishery.

To help ensure the fishery only opens when capelin have reached industry standards and the product is of sufficient quality, an industry led consultative process has been established.

Stakeholders from the harvesting and processing sectors meet, along with DFO, to discuss the quality of capelin found through sampling, which is completed by fixed and mobile gear harvesters.

Recommendation to open a fleet/ area are made to the Department through this process.

For the west coast capelin fishery there are fewer stakeholders/ participants and as such the process is less formal.

However, consultation between stakeholders, informed by sampling still provides the basis for recommendations to DFO on opening dates. This year the west coast capelin fishery opened in June at the request of industry and to date 24 percent of the quota has been landed."

The total quota for the waters off Labrador and eastern/southern Newfoundland this year is 14,533 tonnes, and 10,225 tonnes for the Gulf.


And those telephone calls decide when sampling will take place in different zones, and it's only then that DFO will issue a permit.

Sampling needs to happen asap to see if the capelin are commercially viable.

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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