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DFO science can’t say what (if any) impact cancelled 2022 capelin fishery had on stock

That admission tells me the small commercial capelin fishery off Labrador and eastern/southern Newfoundland has an insignificant/zero impact on the health of the stock, and ocean conservation groups like Oceana Canada were off their heads last year in calling for a fishery shut down. More than that, DFO science simply isn't cutting it.

On Wednesday, DFO released the 2023 science assessment for the two capelin stocks off eastern and southern Newfoundland and Labrador — fishing zones 2J3KL and 3Ps.

DFO's 2022 capelin survey wasn't comparable to past years because sampling was carried out earlier than usual, the result of science ships being unavailable.

DFO set the 2022 commercial capelin quota at 14,533 tonnes (a rollover from 2021), but none was taken for "market reasons" (to use the department's words).

According to DFO's latest science, the capelin stock remains in the critical zone, and the advice to the minister is to keep removals to the the "lowest possible level."

Even though DFO science can't tell whether fishing/not fishing has ANY impact.

DFO's science has said the amount of capelin taken in the commercial fishery is small relative to consumption in the ecosystem.

That said, scientists don't know how much capelin (fin fish in general) is eaten by whales, seals or northern cod, but the figure of one million tonnes has been thrown around.

DFO also can't estimate the total number of caplin in the water — which scientists call an "absolute abundance estimate" — because the department doesn't survey the full area using sonar.

Other countries such as Iceland and Norway do acoustic surveys, allowing them to estimate full numbers.

DFO said Tuesday there are no plans to proceed with acoustic surveys.

Yet another example of the Government of Canada's ongoing negligence in the management of the NL fishery.

Caplin is a key link in the North Atlantic food chain, and Ottawa's science is second-rate.

The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is expected to announce the 2023 capelin quota by June.

Charity groups like Oceana Canada have Ottawa's ear on commercial fisheries, and in April last year called for the closure of the capelin fishery.

But then Oceana has no policy on seals — capelin's biggest predator. That alone creates suspicion over its motives.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit to join.

Read other SEA-NL capelin posts:

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