In 2004, capelin landings fished in the Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence added up to 6,089 t. These landings represent a rise of 1,057 t compared with the 2003 level. With this increase, the 2004 landings are now just over the annual average landings of 5,487 t calculated for the 1990-2003 period. Purse seiners operating on the west coast of Newfoundland, and in unit area 4Rc in particular made for 76% of landings realized in 2004. Between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, fishing seasons in this area were generally characterized by late fishery opening dates (and spawning activities). However, a relative stability in fishing dates has been observed since 2001. The average length of capelin caught in Division 4R showed a downward trend between 1986 and 1999, but a rise occurred thereafter. Nevertheless, the lengths measured in 2004 remain lower to those recorded in the 1980s. The dispersion index of capelin in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence has been characterized by rises in its long-term tendencies between 1990 and 2004. However, in 2004, a reduction of the index was measured for the West coast of Newfoundland and the southern Gulf. Small and large zooplanktons remain capelin’s main food source. In the mid-1980s, the main causes of capelin mortality stem from predation of large cod (Gadus morhua) and redfish (Sebastes spp.). Cetaceans, harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) and Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) replaced these two species during the 1990s and 2000s. In the mid-1980s, annual capelin consumption by its main predators totalled approximately one million tonnes. In the early 2000s, despite the strong decrease in abundance of its predators (cod and redfish), nearly 400,000 t of capelin per year was still being consumed, making this species the most important prey in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem.
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