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Let the fishermen fish; FFAW-Unifor stands between inshore fleet and capelin

The capelin fishery off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador is open, the quota is barely touched, buyers are standing by, but still the inshore fleet is blocked from fishing by their own union. Fisheries and Oceans may make the official call, but the department’s capelin strings are pulled by the FFAW, and the union does not speak for all boats. That's a reality DFO has yet to acknowledge, but it is coming.

According to DFO stats, 192% (3,588 tonnes) of the capelin quota available to the province off the island's Gulf coast has been landed. That leaves 81% or 20,046 tonnes of capelin left to be caught off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unlike the west coast, the capelin fishery off the east coast has yet to get underway this year. The east coast fishery is opened bay by bay, with capelin sampled first for minimum size/gender.

But DFO won't issue sampling permits until the FFAW gives the go ahead, and the union has yet to do so because some — not all — processors are prepared to buy.

SEA-NL highlighted the process of who makes the capelin call in this post from last week: DFO responds: industry/FFAW decide when east coast capelin fishery opens

in deciding whether to issue permits, DFO takes market conditions into consideration — which is ridiculous. The department should stick to management and science, areas that remain in desperate need of work.

The FFAW decides when to initiate a so-called "capelin call" for stakeholder input, and the union's recommendation dictates when sampling will take place in different zones, and it is only then DFO will issue a permit.

SEA-NL the stand that sampling needs to happen ASAP.

The time for capelin fishing in St. Mary’s Bay, the Southern Shore, Conception Bay, and, soon enough, Trinity Bay, will be over as the capelin migrate north or spawn out, at which point the fish is worthless.


An estimated 30 fixed-gear enterprise owners from Leading Tickles/Glovers Harbour, Notre Dame Bay have a buyer lined up for capelin, which has showed up in their waters, and are calling on DFO to issue sampling permits.

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

The capelin price for this province's inshore fleet was set in mid June at35¢/lb for Grade A, a nose dive from the high of 46.5¢/lb paid out in 2021.

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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