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Capelin (Mallotus villosus) - NAFO Divisions 4RST (Capelin Fishing Areas 12-16)


Picture of capelin
(Mallotus villosus)

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) is to identify the main objectives and requirements for the Newfoundland and Labrador Region Capelin fishery in NAFO Division 4RST, as well as the management measures that will be used to achieve these objectives. This document also serves to communicate basic information on the fishery and its management to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) staff, legislated co-management boards and committees, and other stakeholders. This IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource.

This IFMP is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act.  The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claim agreements, the provisions of land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

As with any policy, the Minister retains the discretion to make exceptions to, or to change, this policy at any time. It is, however, DFO’s expectation and intention to follow the management process set out in this IFMP, with a view to contributing to increased certainty and direction for the Capelin fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This IFMP will be in effect until it is replaced. While the elements of this plan will remain in effect indefinitely, quotas are subject to annual review and may be adjusted based on updated Science information. This could include changes to the TAC, as well as adjustments to annexes and website listings. 

Jacqueline Perry
A/Regional Director General
Newfoundland and Labrador Region

Table of contents

1. Overview of the fishery
2. Stock assessment and status - NAFO Divisions 4RS
3. Economics of the fishery
4. Management issues
5. Objectives
6. Access and allocation
7. Management measures for the duration of the plan
8. Shared stewardship arrangements
9. Compliance plan
10. Performance review
11. Glossary of Terms

1. Overview of the fishery

1.1 History of the fishery

The 4RST capelin fishery dates back over 100 years. Capelin was used extensively for agricultural fertilizer, bait for the cod fishery or as dog food. Capelin were traditionally dried, smoked, salted and frozen for human or animal consumption.

The fishery for roe capelin in 4RST (Capelin Fishing Areas 12-16) began during the late 1970’s with Japan as the primary market destination for roe-bearing females. In recent years, new markets have been developed for non-roe-bearing females and males. The capelin fisheries in Norway and Iceland occur during the early part of the year. This has resulted in increased demand for capelin products and improved market opportunities and prices during the 4RST capelin season, which benefits the local fish economy.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, a very small number of fish harvesters prosecuted the capelin fishery for commercial purposes.  As the prominence of the Japanese roe capelin markets grew from the mid to the late 1980’s, so too did the number of commercial fish harvesters. In the 1970’s, midwater trawls and then purse seining were introduced as new fishing technology. Today the purse seine and modified bar seine (tuck seine) are successfully used in the inshore capelin fishery.

1.2 Type of fishery

The 4RST capelin fishery is managed on the basis of a single Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The TAC is subdivided into three allocation categories:

The 4RST (CFA 12-16) Capelin fishery for fishing vessels >65’ is a competitive fishery; whereas the 4R (CFA 12-14) mobile gear fishery for vessels <65’ is managed on an Individual Quota (IQ) basis. An allocation of TAC is set aside for the <65’ fixed gear competitive fishery.

1.3 Participants

There are 214 fixed gear licences in CFAs 12-14, and 25 mobile gear licences in CFAs 12-14. In CFA 15 there are 60 fixed gear licences and six mobile gear licences.  In CFA 16 there are four fixed gear licences and six mobile gear licences. Two of these mobile gear licences are > 65’ Gulf-based licences.

In 1992, in response to the Supreme Court of Canada Sparrow decision, DFO introduced a strategy to increase Indigenous access in the capelin fishery. Included in the afore-mentioned number of commercial licences is a single communal commercial capelin licence issued to an Indigenous organization in Newfoundland and Labrador.

1.4 Location of the fishery

This IFMP covers the capelin fishery in NAFO division 4RST. (Figure 1)

Map showing the NAFO division boundaries off the Atlantic coast
Figure 1: Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Subareas and NAFO Divisions.

1.5 Fishery characteristics

The 4RST capelin fishery is managed on a two-year management plan. The current management cycle runs from January 1 to December 31 annually. Science advice on the stock and subsequent advisory meetings with industry occurs every two years. Additional review meetings with industry may be added to this schedule for any reason deemed appropriate by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

Capelin is fished using both fixed and mobile gear. The fixed gear capelin fishery in all areas uses traps and modified bar seines known as” tuck seines.” The fixed gear fishery occurs in specific areas or bays. The mobile gear fleet is made up of <65’ and >65’ purse seine vessels. The mobile gear fishery occurs where the resource is available in Capelin Fishing Areas 12-16.

1.6 Governance

The Newfoundland and Labrador 4RST capelin fishery is governed by the Fisheries Act, regulations made pursuant to the Act, and departmental policies. The key regulations and policies that apply include, but are not limited to:

The Fisheries Licencing Policy of Newfoundland and Labrador Region provides details on the various licensing policies that govern the commercial fishing industry in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying this document.

Capelin management is conducted through a multi-region advisory process. The advisory committee solicits the opinions of stakeholders on past management practices and focuses on management measure recommendations for the upcoming season's fishery. This includes recommendations on the TAC.  A list of advisory members is provided in [Appendix 3].

1.7 Approval process

This Integrated Fisheries Management Plan is approved by the Regional Director General of the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. Opening and closing dates for specific areas and gear types are determined by DFO area staff in consultation with industry. Other issues that arise will be addressed through similar consultative processes. Any changes to management measures are tabled by DFO officials at the biennial advisory meeting.

Unless there are conservation issues, the intent is to manage the fishery based on the measures outlined in this IFMP. Stakeholders seeking new management measures are required to table their requests at the next scheduled DFO-industry advisory meeting.

2. Stock assessment and status - NAFO Divisions 4RS

2.1 Biological characteristics

Capelin were previously considered as a single circumpolar species, Mallotus villosus. However, increasing morphological and genetic evidence indicate that there are at least three capelin species inhabiting Canadian waters with complex genetic structures within each species. Genetic isolation among capelin species appears to coincide with lower ocean levels during the last major periods of glaciation. In Canada, Pacific capelin, Mallotus catervarius are observed from the Pacific Ocean through the Berring Strait, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, across the Artic, and as far East as the Davis Strait. Atlantic capelin consist of Mallotus villosus and a as of yet unnamed capelin species Mallotus sp. Atlantic capelin ranges overlap in the North Atlantic Ocean from Hudson’s Bay to the Barents and Kara Seas and extend as far South as the Scotian Shelf and the Bay of Fundy in the North West Atlantic. All three capelin species’ habitats overlap in Canadian waters and further studies are needed to define each of their habitat preferences, genetics, and life-history traits.

Capelin are members of the Osmeridae family (smelts) and range from a metallic blue, green, yellow-green, or brassy brown colour and have an elongated body shape. There is a clear sexual dimorphism among capelin where males have larger fins and are typically larger and longer than females. In the spring and extending into the early summer, males also develop two pairs of spawning carina (prominent ridges), one dorsal and the other ventral.

Capelin have two modes of spawning (beach spawning and demersal spawning) and are preceded by large scale migrations to coastal and intertidal waters. Beach spawners “roll” onto sandy or fine gravel beaches where males and females deposit their respective milt and eggs (approximately 1 mm in diameter) which then adhere to the sandy substrate. Timing of beach spawning generally progresses from the West in the Estuary (April-June) eastwards and as late June-July along Quebec’s Lower North Shore. These spawning events are thought to be more predominant at night at high tides. Onshore winds and lunar phase are also thought to influence spawning time and date. There is a high mortality among the mature fish, particularly the males, following beach spawning. Although many beaches are used year after year by capelin to spawn, water temperature is the likely driver of a beach being used for spawning or not. Capelin have been observed to spawn in waters ranging between 3-15 ˚C on beaches. Water and substrate temperatures also influence egg incubation time (0-35 days with faster incubation in warmer water), egg mortality, and larval survival but this varies across beaches and years. Similar to beach spawners, demersal spawners tend to choose sites with sandy or fine gravel substrate but are found in colder temperatures and higher salinities. Those who have observed demersal spawning sites describe swimming through thick clouds of eggs surrounded in a gelatinous substance that adheres to the seafloor. In addition to lower temperature variability at demersal spawning sites, demersal spawners experience higher salinities than beach spawners but the effect of salinity on incubation time, egg mortality, and larval survival is not clear. Upon hatching, larvae adopt a planktonic existence and remain near the water’s surface until winter. The most significant amount of growth occurs in the first year and capelin reach sexual maturity around 2 years of age.

There are proportionally more males obtained from commercial fishery samples annually than females (mean of 62% males vs. 38% females). This could  reflect a true sex ratio as there would there would have to be many more males in the population to compensate for the high mortality in post spawning males. It is also possible that more males are caught as they tend to stay in aggregations in coastal waters longer than females prior to spawning.

In the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence, mean lengths for both female and male capelin samples provided by the commercial fishery have fluctuated over the years but show similar trends (Figure 2). From 1984 to 2017, females and males averaged 147 mm and 165 mm in 4R, 146 mm and 163 mm in 4S, and 140 mm and 148 mm in 4T respectively. In 4R, females decreased in size from 1992 to 2003, reaching a low point in 1999 at 135 mm. They increased in size in the 2000s to an all time high of 169 mm in 2014 and have decreased to the lowest average length on record in 2017 at 134 mm. Males in 4R followed similar trends, decreasing and increasing during the same time periods as females, reaching the highest mean length in 2014 at 181 mm and their lowest values in 1999 and 2017 at 152 mm and 154 mm respectively. As fishing effort is dependent on fish size and weather conditions, the fishery has closed early or been delayed many times throughout the years. In June of 2017, ice entered the Straight of Belle-Isle and delayed the beginning of the capelin fishery.

When compared to the West coast of Newfoundland, 4ST mean annual lengths for both male and female capelin are smaller (Figure 2). Capelin in 3KL on the East coast of Newfoundland are generally larger than capelin in 4RST but dropped sharply in size (and in biomass) at the same time as the Atlantic cod stock collapse in the early 1990s. Their sizes have remained closer to Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence capelin populations ever since.

For details, refer to the table that follows
Figure 2: Mean lengths for male (M) and female (F) capelin in NAFO Divisions 4RST and 3KL
Year 3K 3L 4R 4S 4T
1980     153.23 174.54            
1981     160.63 179.30            
1982 169.46 188.60 165.91 187.60            
1983 175.24 189.17 163.62 185.90            
1984 169.02 187.65 167.63 187.09 151.40 172.53     153.82 172.68
1985 169.01 185.51 157.46 180.73 150.33 163.32     143.95 144.58
1986 166.31 185.39 164.48 185.35 156.14 173.04 146.50 164.41 152.39 164.03
1987 177.33 194.62 170.54 192.57 150.57 165.96 147.04 167.61 143.18 161.71
1988 174.35 190.88 167.36 186.09 148.50 163.19 142.39 159.20 139.69 154.92
1989 167.84 188.62 166.66 186.41 153.42 172.01 156.33 170.84 148.62 165.45
1990 169.17 186.02 165.29 184.28 156.49 173.79 150.13 167.80 147.08 166.13
1991 164.35 179.11 154.94 175.77 152.55 167.71 151.81 169.31 143.73 159.42
1992 157.35 173.76 101.36 108.18 152.87 169.65 146.72 167.59 143.67 161.95
1993 151.79 168.69 151.46 169.84 142.19 159.92 138.66 157.58 130.70 151.65
1994 146.29 164.95 146.29 164.95 136.20 150.43        
1995 144.40 163.50 140.69 161.92   144.77 133.96 152.84 133.89 150.73
1996 153.64 169.04 149.12 168.13 145.15 162.28 137.27 155.10 138.70 152.75
1997 153.25 164.42 144.18 159.64 144.41 160.21 138.09 154.58 136.66 150.71
1998 150.01 168.15 145.37 162.54 140.40   139.15 156.73 135.15 151.47
1999 154.24 171.45 148.02 166.98 132.75 149.03 140.53 157.18 137.46 150.20
2000 151.65 168.35 154.15 172.48 137.66 148.21     127.76 146.49
2001 149.48 167.51 148.45 167.59 136.93 149.92        
2002 146.45 162.20 146.20 163.67 143.04 157.66        
2003 146.32 164.68 145.33 163.14 147.76 161.35 147.03 160.60 144.77 159.32
2004 148.30 166.70 147.11 163.38 145.63 161.36 140.18 157.10 138.53 154.90
2005 153.22 171.98 155.74 171.95 144.82 164.33 144.11 158.45 138.01 153.87
2006 152.33 170.08 148.52 167.93 141.99 156.85 137.18 156.95 133.58 147.56
2007 151.41 169.92 149.43 167.25 143.30 158.48 143.04 161.05 145.16 158.86
2008 153.39 171.13 147.72 168.59 139.04 155.65 137.71 152.04 138.84 149.53
2009 144.09 161.69 141.37 160.36 142.79 159.37 137.07 158.15 137.52 152.59
2010 148.08 163.68 144.10 160.50 141.00 160.01 133.62 152.25 135.53 151.11
2011 149.61 164.96 143.30 162.49 136.25 154.80 135.99 153.68 130.15 149.26
2012 149.05 172.09 145.44 170.33 147.08 160.47 143.27 161.14 141.02 155.58
2013 155.67 181.09 150.75 173.71 146.37 163.37     134.78 149.43
2014 168.61 183.36 167.26 183.48 158.22 174.33     144.05 158.35
2015 156.33 176.22 154.31 172.98 141.32 158.43 142.32 154.94 144.45 160.08
2016 154.92 168.36 150.75 167.65 145.21 163.66 138.68 156.34 134.40 152.47
2017 139.29 155.77 139.28 156.22 132.64 150.57 134.88 152.19 134.67 151.88

Fluctuations in capelin size are also observed in annual length frequencies between sexes and across NAFO unit areas. Since 2014 both male and female sizes have decreased markedly (a decrease of 18% for females and 6% in males). This trend is most apparent in 4R as the majority of commercial samples come from that fishery. As capelin are a short lived species that attain their adult sizes within the first 2 years of life, length frequencies tend to only have one observable mode as they overlap with various age groups. There is less of a discernable trend in samples from 4ST which may just be due to smaller numbers of samples obtained from these fisheries.

Both male and female capelin have a nearly linear weigth-length relationships suggesting isometric growth patterns; however, the commercial fishery targets reproductive adults and it is rare to obtain capelin samples under 120 mm or under 10 g. The early life stages of capelin in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence are therefore not fully understood. Capelin condition has varied around a mean value of 0.6 from 1984 to 2017 for both males and females. Capelin condition was above average for both sexes in the 2000s reaching a peak in 2010. Since then, both male and female condition have dropped by 18%.

2.2 Ecosystem interactions

Capelin have a central role in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystems as they allow the transfer of energy from primary and secondary producers to higher trophic levels. Capelin are an important prey for groundfish: Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), redfish (Sebastes spp.), and Greenland turbot (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides), Cetaceans: Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus), white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris), harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), belugas (Delphinapterus leucas), Fin whales (Delphinapterus leucas), humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), orcas (Orcinus orca), and minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), seabirds: gulls (Larus spp.), Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica), and Northern gannets (Morus bassanus), seals: particularly harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus), as well as many other fish species.

Marine ecosystem models indicate that between the mid-1980s and mid-2000s, capelin were the primary prey for the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem and represented on average 50% of the consumed matter in the ecosystem.In the mid-1980s, the annual capelin consumption by its main predators was approximately one million tons. In the early 2000s, despite a sharp drop in cod and redfish abundances, nearly 400 000 t of capelin were still consumed by predators. More recent models as well as stomach content analyses of capelin’s main predators indicate that they are not currently an important prey source for redfish or harp seals but remain an important staple for many other species in the ecosystem. Fishing mortality does not appear to have a noticeable effect on capelin at current catch levels, although this is currently impossible to evaluate given the absence of a directed capelin acoustic survey.

Capelin are amongst the main species found in catches of the Northern and Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence multi-disciplinary groundfish research surveys conducted annually. Research is currently being conducted to ascertain whether capelin occurrence and realised niche varies as a function of the presence of its main predators (cod, halibut and turbot). This research follows from observations in recent years that Capelin were not found in areas where Cod were also being caught and might represent a form of predator avoidance. 

Capelin is a regular by-catch of the shrimp fishery. In the spring, in areas such as the Esquiman Channel and western Anticosti, the number of capelin caught by shrimp harvesters can be significant. Some fishermen avoid certain sectors to avoid catching too many capelin. According to observers’ data (coverage of 5%), capelin by-catch by shrimpers decreased from 877 tonnes in 1993 to a low of 113 tonnes in 1996, a direct consequence of the arrival of the Nordmore grid. Thereafter, capelin by-catch fluctuated between 110 tonnes (2007) and 536 tonnes (2009). Since 2012, however, capelin by-catch has decreased and reflects recent decreases in commercial shrimp landings (Figure 3).

Figure 3a: By-catch estimates. For details, refer to the table that follows
Figure 3b: Location and amount landed. For details, refer to the table that follows
Figure 3 : Annual capelin by-catch estimates (t) from the commercial shrimp fishery since 2000 as well as location and amount of capelin landed from 2000 to 2015
Year Esquiman Anticosti Sept-Iles Estruary
2000 25.574 24.174 72.067 4.723
2001 39.999 8.025 27.158 2.023
2002 200.878 30.359 77.133 0.678
2003 31.842 7.848 96.393 1.866
2004 144.647 12.49 154.605 0.44
2005 2.143 12.212 76.873 2.972
2006 14.113 32.288 48.813 0.393
2007 4.38 38.851 48.359 1.967
2008 29.176 30.877 32.811 0.72
2009 241.633 17.555 61.623 3.724
2010 29.176 63.78 57.172 5.307
2011 12.077 27.213 173.148 1.21
2012 23.344 26.988 98.68 0.531
2013 14.662 20.32 67.656 7.256
2014 11.879 4.464 17.814 3.155
2015 7.61 68.24 11.992 0
2016 32.736 23.208 23.06 2.769
2017 18.551 18.551 13.732 0.746

Source of data: H. Bourdages, DFO, Mont-Joli, pers. comm.; Biorex and Seawatch Observer program.

2.3 Aboriginal traditional knowledge

Aboriginal traditional knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge in the form of observations and comments from Aboriginal groups are considered in management decisions when provided.

2.4 Stock assessment process

There is no directed abundance survey for capelin in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence; however planning for a survey is ongoing. Consequently, it is not possible to calculate abundance, fishing mortality, and limit reference points which could help to establish a strategic framework for the fishery and a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) according to the Precautionary Approach. The current TACs (9,295 tonnes for Division 4R and 1,290 tonnes for Divisions 4ST) were based on market needs instead of biomass and biological information.

2.5 Stock scenarios or stock assessment results

There is a lack of information concerning the status (abundance) and the stock structure and dynamics of the 4RST capelin. The role that certain environmental variables might have on the species’ distribution and its accessibility to fishing sites is not well known. Over the years, significant variations of capelin occurrence and abundance have been observed at the traditional spawning and fishing sites. These variations are cause for uncertainty and also interfere with the Industry’s economic performance and prosperity (the egg-bearing female fishery is very lucrative). The factors responsible for these variations are unknown. They could be natural (abundance variations) and/or linked to the environment (climate change) and to habitat quality.

Capelin use various types of beaches to spawn. However, in capelin populations outside of the Gulf of St. Lawrence it is increasingly understood that egg and larvae survival rate depends on the physical characteristics of the spawning grounds (e.g. sediment type, size, salinity, water temperature, and to a lesser extent on wind orientation, direction and speed; tides, etc) and their impact on spawning success (recruitment).  Research on the effect of beach choice and beach characteristics have been examined in the NL region (NAFO Div. 3L) and research has begun on this question on the north coast of the St. Lawrence. This knowledge is important as many beaches undergo significant natural erosion. In addition, some are under anthropogenic pressure such as rock embankments to protect the back shore. These constructions often increase wave energy which in turn increases the sediment transport process. Knowledge of a beach’s physical characteristics and productivity could ensure better protection of the capelin reproductive habitat and ensure that appropriate materials are used when restoring a beach.

2.6 Precautionary approach

An exploitation strategy based on the Precautionary Approach should vary according to a stock’s abundance and its capacity to produce recruits. This capacity is measured by the relationship between a stock and its recruits. Reference levels are set in order to characterize a stock based on three abundance zones:

Such reference levels have not been calculated for capelin in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence because of the absence of a directed abundance survey for this species.

In Europe, consumption estimates have been established to determine the predation pressure and the amount of capelin needed by the ecosystem. For the Barents Sea capelin stock, the management strategy approach is based on the rule that, with 95% probability, at least 200,000 tonnes of capelin should be allowed to spawn. Consequently, 200,000 tonnes is used as a Blim. An acoustic survey is conducted to calculate the spawning stock biomass and an analytical model is used to calculate the probability of spawning biomass being below Blim, as a function of catch.     

Since the mid-1990s, some initiatives have been introduced to certify the viability of the commercially exploited resources. Some criteria have been established to determine whether a fishery was managed responsibly. When a fishery is, the products from this fishery are identified “eco-certified”. One of the criteria used to identify a responsible fishery is the presence of reference levels. These levels have yet to be determined for capelin in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Capelin was recognized as a species of ecological importance for the integrated management of the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem. The conservation objective was defined as followed: To ensure that capelin is not perturbed by human activities to a point that it cannot fill its role as an important element of the trophic network of the ecosystem. At the current catch level, fishing mortality has no noticeable effects on the capelin population. However, it is impossible to assess how this population and the rest of the ecosystem would be impacted by a significant catch increase, since capelin abundance fluctuations are mainly the result of natural causes (predation and spawning). As the species’ maximum life span is short (4-5 years), abundance is subject to abrupt changes because the population is only made up of a few age groups.

Although the commercial fishery may harvest a very small proportion of the total biomass, it is recommended that any TAC increase should be made cautiously due to the absence of an abundance survey and the capelin’s prominent role as a forage species in the marine ecosystem and not exceed 10% in a given year.

2.7 Research

A primary goal of the DFO Science branch is to provide high quality knowledge, products and scientific advice on Canadian aquatic ecosystems and living resources, with a vision of safe, healthy, productive waters and aquatic ecosystems. DFO conducts research activities both independently and in collaboration with other organizations.

3. Economics of the fishery

3.1 Socio-economic profile

Capelin landings have fluctuated throughout the past decade ranging from the low observed in 2017 of about 1,965 tonnes to a high of approximately 12,300 tonnes in 2011 (Table 1).  Typically, the vast majority (>85%) of 4RST Capelin (CFAS 12-16) landings occur in the NL Region, with smaller amounts landed in other provinces by Quebec-based and Gulf-based fish harvesters.  While not a consistent occurrence, there are some years when fish harvesters based in 4ST (CFAS 15-16) land Capelin in the NL Region. 

Over the 2009 to 2019 period, the landed value of the Capelin fishery in NAFO Divisions 4RST  ranged from a low of around $600 thousand in 2017 to a high of approximately $4.6 million in 2019 (Figure 4).

Based on NL Region data, the average annual landed price for Capelin has also varied over the past decade, from a low of approximately $0.05/lb in 2010 to a high of $0.27/lb in 2019.

Iceland and Norway are also major Capelin exporters. The Capelin fishery in these countries typically peaks during the months of January to March, much earlier than the Capelin fishery in Canada.  As a result, Capelin exports from these nations may influence the level of Canadian capelin exports from year to year.   

Table 1: 4RST Capelin (CFAS 12-16) landings (tonnes) and landed value (000’s) - All regions (2009-2019)
Year Landings Landed value
2009 12,079 $1.792
2010 10,821 $1.290
2011 12,312 $2.107
2012 9,511 $2.016
2013 6,342 $1.553
2014 5,699 $1.807
2015 11,824 $3.292
2016 9,745 $3.479
2017 1,965 $623
2018 8,530 $3,155
2019 7,956 $4,661

Source: Policy and Economics, DFO NL Region. Data from 2009 to 2019 is preliminary and subject to revision.

For details, refer to the table that follows
Figure 4: 4RST Capelin landings and landed value (000’s) 2009 to 2019 – All regions
Year Landed round weight Landed value
2009 12,079 $1,792
2010 10,821 $1,290
2011 12,312 $2,107
2012 9,511 $2,016
2013 6,342 $1,553
2014 5,699 $1,807
2015 11,824 $3,292
2016 9,745 $3,479
2017 1,965 $623
2018 8,530 $3,155
2019 7,956 $4,661

Source: Policy and Economics, DFO NL Region. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.

3.2 Dependence on Capelin

In 2019, there were 20 active enterprises <40’ with Capelin homeported in NAFO Division 4R.  Capelin accounted for 29% of the total landed value of all species harvested for these enterprises.  Herring accounted for 37%, Halibut 14%, Cod 4%, other shellfish 12%, and other pelagics at 1%.

In the 40’ to 89’11” fleet, there were 23 active enterprises with Capelin landings. For these enterprises, Capelin was the most significant species in terms of total landed value at 36%.  Herring was second at 34%, followed by lobster (12%), other shellfish at 13% , other groundfish (Halibut, and Greenland Halibut) at 5%.

“Dependence” in this analysis is considered to be the percentage contribution of Capelin to the total landed value of all species harvested by these Newfoundland and Labrador based enterprises.

According to the provincial Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, in 2019, there were 25 facilities actively processing Capelin in Newfoundland and Labrador (includes 2J3KLPs and 4R3Pn).  Total Capelin production for these facilities was approximately 21,088 tonnes. 

3.3 Exports

According to Statistics Canada, in 2019 total Canadian Capelin exports were approximately 25,000 tonnes, up from ~17,000 tonnes in 2018; a total decrease of about 45% (or ~8,000 t) from 2018 to 2019.

China, at 45% of the export value, continues to be a significant export destination for Canadian Capelin products.  Japan (11%), the United States (11%), Ukraine (8%), and Taiwan (7%) are also major export destinations (Figure 5). The “other” category includes  Thailand, Vietnam, the Netherlands, South Korea, Lithuania and Hong Kong among others.

For details, refer to the table that follows
Figure 5: Canadian Capelin exports by country of destination (2019) based on export value.
Location Percentage
China 45%
United States 11%
Japan 11%
Ukraine 8%
Taiwan 7%
Other 18%

Source: Statistics Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador accounts for the highest percentage of capelin export value in Canada at 62%, followed by Nova Scotia at 38%.

For details, refer to the table that follows
Figure 6: Canadian Capelin exports, by province of origin (2019) based on export value
Location Percentage
Newfoundland 62.0%
Nova Scotia 37.8%
Other 0.2%

Source: Statistics Canada.

4. Management issues

4.1 Interaction with Atlantic salmon

The issue of the interaction of Atlantic salmon and the capelin fishery has been discussed with industry at capelin advisory meetings, and measures have been taken in the commercial capelin fishery to mitigate the by-catch of Atlantic salmon and to protect their migration.

4.2 By-catch concerns

Atlantic salmon and cod may occur as by-catch in capelin traps. DFO closely monitors by-catch and will continue to work with industry and stakeholders to manage this issue.

4.3 Gear impacts

Modified bar seines, or tuck seines as they are commonly referred to, are bar seines fitted with rings that allow the bottom and sides of the seine to be brought or hauled together. The use of these seines have been authorized in the fixed gear herring, capelin and mackerel fisheries in 2+3 and 4R3Pn following consultations with industry in advisory committee meetings.

Mobile and Fixed Gear: purse seine (large and small), tuck seine, gillnet and trap gear used in the 4RST capelin fishery are not considered to have high impact on the ecosystem. By-catch of Atlantic salmon is the main conservation concern in this fishery. Although some seine nets do touch the bottom from time to time, the impact on benthic species and habitats is minimal.

Non-tended fixed gear, gillnet and trap, must have gear marking as outlined in Schedule 38.

4.4 Barging

On occasion fish harvesters were known to undertake the practice of “barging” in pelagic fisheries. The practice of barging involves one vessel actively fishing and supplying one or more inactive participants with catch. The inactive participants were not geared up to actively participate in fishing operations. Since this practice is not permitted, fish harvesters are encouraged to review their license conditions.

4.5 Oceans initiatives in marine conservation

In August 2019, the Government of Canada surpassed its milestone of protecting 10% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2020, a target which is a reflection of Canada’s United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Targets commitments, collectively referred to as Canada’s marine conservation targets. The Government of Canada further committed domestically to protecting 25% by 2025, and working towards 30% by 2030. 

More information on the background and drivers for Canada’s marine conservation targets. To meet our marine conservation target, Canada is establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and “other effective area-based conservation measures” (“Other Measures”), in consultation with industry, non-governmental organizations, and other interested parties. An overview of these tools, including a description of the role of fisheries management measures that qualify as Other Measures is available on our website.  

Map showing the bioregion boundaries on the East coast.
Figure 7: Map of NL and Gulf of St. Lawrence Bioregion.

4.6 Habitat considerations

DFO seeks to conserve and protect fish habitat that supports Canada’s fisheries resource through application of the fisheries protection provisions of the Fisheries Act. A key provision of the Fisheries Act is subsection 35 which prohibits the carrying on of a work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of or support a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery without an authorization from the Minister.

The Fisheries Protection Program provides advice to proponents to enable them to proactively avoid and mitigate the effects of projects on fish and fish habitat, undertakes the review of proposed works, undertakings and activities that may affect fish and fish habitat, and ensures compliance with the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act by issuing authorizations and permits, when appropriate, with conditions for offsetting, monitoring, and reporting.

4.7 Aquatic invasive species (AIS)

Green crab have been found in coastal areas of 4R, particularly near Bonne Bay and in Bay St. George, as far north as Port Saunders.

In NAFO division 4R some invasive tunicates have been located. The membranipora membranacea (coffin box bryozoan) has the most significant impact as it invades kelp beds and breaks off the blades of seaweed, therefore reducing and impacting commercial fish nurseries using this habitat.

In NAFO divisions 3P, 3L and 4R some invasive tunicates have been detected in coastal areas, with invasive populations of concern located in Burin, Little Bay and Marystown (vase tunicate) and Belleoram harbours (violet tunicate). 

Best practices to prevent the introduction and spread of AIS include:

More information and maps of aquatic invasive species in Newfoundland and Labrador can be found in the Identify an Aquatic Invasive Species section.

4.8 Catch monitoring

Return of logbooks and catch reporting are mandatory in this fishery. These are important tools for the overall management of the fishery, including quota monitoring and the Science assessment process. Failure to return logbooks may impact in-season quota monitoring.

4.9 International issues

The United States (US) is implementing the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act following court direction. The import rule requires countries exporting fish and fish products to the US to demonstrate that they have regulatory measures in place that are comparable in effectiveness to those of the US for reducing marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury in commercial fisheries. Countries who fail to obtain such comparability measures to the US for their export fisheries by January 1, 2022, will be prohibited from entering the US market.

Canada is currently working towards demonstrating appropriate measures are in place in all Canadian fisheries.

5. Objectives

Long-term objectives

DFO strives to manage the 4RST capelin fishery based on the principles of stock conservation, sustainable harvest, and ecosystem health and sustainability. Using the following short and long-term objectives as guideposts, various management measures have been implemented or are being developed that will maximize the benefit of this resource.

5.1 Stock conservation and sustainable harvest

Conservation and the long-term sustainability of the capelin stock is one of the most important objectives for DFO. It is vital that the stock grow and provide benefits for all stakeholders in the short and long-term. DFO will work with all stakeholders to ensure this objective is achieved and that the capelin stock supports an economically viable and self-reliant fishery.

Harvesting levels will be set that allow for the stock to grow and the mature biomass to increase. Consideration will be given to the level of recruitment in this stock. Furthermore, the capelin fishery will be managed such that catches are not concentrated in ways that result in high exploitation rates on any of the stock components.

5.2 Ecosystem health and sustainability

Ecosystem health is essential for effective fisheries management. The sustainability of capelin as a species within the food web as both a prey species and a predator will strengthen the long-term health of the ecosystem.

5.3 Stewardship

The shared stewardship management objective recognizes that industry participants and all stakeholders must become involved in fisheries management policy development and the decision-making process. It also recognizes that achievement of the conservation objective requires that governments, resource users and other stakeholders share responsibility for the implementation of fisheries management decisions and for their outcomes.

6. Access and allocation

At this time, access is considered to be limited and allocations are considered to be stable. However the Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

6.1 Quotas and allocations

The Quota Reconciliation Policy was introduced in Capelin Fishing Areas 12-14 in 2011 and in NAFO Sub-Division 4ST in 2013. In the 4ST fishery, geographical sharing is required in order to apply quota reconciliation for that management area.

For overruns in the competitive fishery, the TAC will be reconciled each year (ie. by gear/sector, area and/or overall TAC). For IQ fisheries it will be reconciled each year by individual fish harvester on a kilogram for kilogram basis.  A review process will be established to verify catches before reconciliation is applied. This review process will occur within 30-60 days after the end of the season, after all data sources are received and analyzed. [See Table 2]

Table 2: 4RST allocations by fleet, area and gear type.
 NAFO  Fleet Quota area Quota
4R Fixed gear South of Cape St. Gregory 280
Cape St. Gregory to Broom Point 280
Broom Point to Point Riche 389
Point Riche to Big Brook 1,257
Big Brook to Cape Bauld 686
Gulf Shore Labrador 623
Mobile gear West Coast 4R3Pn <65' 2,244
West Coast 4R3Pn >65' 2,244
Subtotal 4R 8,004
Subtotal 4ST 1,290
Total allowable catch 9,295

6.2 Communal commercial fisheries

Indigenous fishing policy in Canada is guided by a vision of supporting healthy and prosperous Indigenous communities through: building and supporting strong, stable relationships; working in a way that upholds the honour of the Crown; and facilitating Indigenous participation in fisheries and aquaculture and associated economic opportunities.

As per the Principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada supports the participation of adjacent Indigenous organizations in commercial fisheries. The Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy Program (AFS) is designed to encourage Indigenous involvement in commercial fisheries and related economic opportunities.

A subsequent program, Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management (AAROM) Program, was designed for Indigenous groups to collaboratively develop capacity and expertise to facilitate their participation in aquatic resource and oceans management.

All communal commercial licences issued to Indigenous organizations are done so under the authority of the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licenses Regulations.

The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band is issued a commercial communal inshore capelin fishing licence in 4RST.

6.3 Sharing arrangements

Commercial quotas are allocated by fleet, area and gear type, taking into consideration bait requirements in other fisheries and fleet shares. Quotas within each gear sector and area are fished both competitively and by IQs. 

4RST geographic sharing arrangements are as follows:

Fleet Sharing arrangements percentage
4R fixed gear (competitive) 37.82%
4R mobile gear <65' (IQ) 24.15%
4R mobile gear >65' (competitive) 24.15%
4ST all gear types (competitive) 13.88%

7. Management measures for the duration of the plan

7.1 Capelin Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2020 was set at 9,295 tonnes. This is a roll over from the  2018-2019 TAC. This conservation approach recognizes the important role capelin plays in the ecosystem as a forage species.

The TAC was established based on the science advice used to describe current stock status and future prospects, and the outcome of deliberations by the 4RST capelin advisory committee.  

7.2 Fishing seasons/areas

DFO’s primary objective is to ensure that the majority of fish harvesters are provided an opportunity to earn a living and benefit from their adjacent fishing resources.

There are a number of factors DFO takes into consideration when establishing the season for the 4RST capelin fishery, including:

Season dates are regularly discussed in detail as part of the industry consultation process and recommendations are noted on all management measures during the advisory meeting. In the case of capelin, season dates are established according to bay or fishing area, and input from local fish harvesters is a key consideration.

Where it is challenging to reach a consensus in specific areas, further discussions with industry and fleet representatives may be required. For example, in a situation where many fish harvesters hold multi-species fishing enterprises and wish to maximize revenues and benefits from each commercial fishery, DFO may be required to conduct a survey of all eligible licence holders in consultation with fleet representatives to ensure a fair and transparent approach is undertaken.

Fishery openings and closings will be communicated through DFO’s Notice to Fish Harvesters system. Fishery openings may be delayed due to weather conditions. These decisions will be made in consultation with industry and openings will occur at 0600 hours whenever possible.

7.3 Decision rules

The measures outlined in the IFMP, combined with responsible fishing practices, should ensure that the conservation goals are met. However, if the fishery is not conducted in an orderly manner, DFO may implement additional management measures or controls in these fisheries.

7.4 Species at Risk Act (SARA) requirements

In accordance with the recovery strategies for the northern wolffish (Anarchichas denticulatus), spotted wolffish (Anarchichas minor), leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), and white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) the licence holder is permitted to carry out commercial fishing activities authorized under the Fisheries Act that may incidentally kill, harm, harass, capture or take the northern wolffish and/or spotted wolffish as per subsection 83(4) of the Species at Risk Act, and the license holder is permitted to carry out commercial fishing activities authorized under the Fisheries Act that are known to incidentally capture leatherback sea turtles.

Licence holders are required to return northern wolffish, spotted wolffish, leatherback sea turtle or white shark to the place from which it was taken, and where it is alive, in a manner that causes the least harm.

Licence holders are required to report in their logbook any interaction with northern wolffish, spotted wolffish, leatherback sea turtles or white shark.

7.5 Licencing

The Newfoundland and Labrador 4RST capelin fishery is governed by the Fisheries Act, and regulations and departmental policies made pursuant to the Act. Applicable regulations and policies include, but are not limited to :

The Fisheries Licensing Policy provides details on the various licensing policies that govern the commercial fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador Region, including species-specific policies applicable to the capelin fishery.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Resource Management should be consulted for all purposes of interpreting and applying this document.

7.6 Dockside monitoring program

The DMP is a mechanism intended to ensure an exact verification of the quantities of fish landed in order to compare them with the allocated quotas. It is a management tool to prevent overruns and which, in conjunction with quota reconciliation, is essential if accurate accounting is to be achieved.

In CFA 12-14 (division 4R), there is a 100% Dockside Monitoring requirement. All commercial license holders must have all their capelin catches checked at the dock. The costs of these checks are the responsibility of the fishing industry. Capelin that are landed by non-commercial fishermen or that are caught for personal or recreational use will not be subject to dockside monitoring.

Fish may only be unloaded in the presence of an approved dockside observer. In consultation with industry and testing companies, specific procedures have been developed for dockside monitoring of catch weight. DFO's accepted method of verifying dock landings is direct weighing performed using approved scales.

In 2008, following negotiations with the industry and trials conducted accordingly, a 3% deduction linked to the consideration of excess water was adopted for capelin. DFO will continue to accept this 3% tolerance for weighing capelin.

Note: In SFA 15 (Division 4S), dockside verification is mandatory if capelin are landed in a port outside their region of origin.

Note: In SFA 16 (Division 4T), dockside verification is mandatory for all commercial fishing license holders established in the Gulf region.

7.7 Logbooks

Completing a logbook is mandatory under Section 61 of the Fisheries Act. Fish harvesters are required to record information about fishing catch and effort, and submit this data as specified in the conditions of licence. Fish harvesters are responsible for obtaining their own logbook. Information that should be in your logbook includes:

Include information on anything else you think may be useful to you or DFO. Note that marine mammal mitigation measures are now mandatory and you must report all interactions. Failure to submit a logbook may result in enforcement action.

7.8 Individual Quota (IQ) regimes

IQs are established in the <65’ purse seine fleet based in Western NL (CFAs 12-14).  This regime has been in effect for this fleet since the mid-1990s. There are no IQs in CFAs 15 or 16.

The main elements of any IQ regime to be considered include the following:

7.9 Sharing

In order to prosecute an orderly harvest and prevent unfair competition, licence conditions provide a definition of “geared up” and the requirements to “share” excess catch by both receiving and providing vessels. To be considered geared up when fishing purse seine, bar seine or modified bar seine, a vessel must be equipped with a purse seine, bar seine or modified bar seine, an operational power block and a tow off vessel.

In order to share excess fish, a harvester must be fully loaded and then share excess catch with a vessel in the same fleet sector that is “geared up”. In order to receive excess fish, a harvester must be fully geared up and receive catch from a vessel in the same fleet sector.

7.10 Atlantic salmon mitigation measures

As a result of the decline in traditional groundfish fisheries, there has been a gradual shift in effort toward other species. This change has come with an increased report of problems with by-catch of other species.  One notable concern is by-catch of salmon and cod taken by pelagic traps. This issue has been discussed with industry over the past several years and measures were taken to minimize the potential for salmon by-catch in the commercial fishery.

In 1996, monofilament netting material was banned from use in capelin trap leaders, and in 1998, the use of trap net leaders with a mesh size between 76.2 mm and 177.8 mm was prohibited. In 2007, the use of trap net leaders with a mesh greater than 50.8 mm to less than 177.8 mm was prohibited.

DFO agreed to open the fishery during the June 15 to July 31 period in certain areas provided there was some protection afforded for migrating salmon. Consequently, fishing is permitted in Capelin Fishing Areas 13 and 14 from June 15 to August 1. However, there are areas around the mouths of certain salmon rivers that could potentially be closed.

There is also a prohibition in the province of Quebec to fish inside 500 m of any point around the mouth of a salmon river as set out in Schedule 6 of the Quebec Fishery Regulations (1990).  

Since 1981, a large portion of the Bay of Islands has been closed to all pelagic fixed gear to protect migrating salmon. Specifically, no fishing with fixed gear is permitted in the inner portion of the Bay of Islands (North Arm, Humber Arm, York Harbour and Lark Harbour), inside a straight line from Crabb Point to North Arm Point to Middle Arm Point to Peter Point, Woods Island to Shoal Point to Fleming Point.

Since 2010, mobile gear restrictions have been in place to avoid disturbance to lobster habitat. Purse seine vessels are restricted from fishing in water depths less than 15 fathoms in that portion of the Bay of Islands, identified as follows:

DFO is committed to conserving and protecting Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, and will continue to consult with stakeholders about salmon possibly being taken as by-catch by capelin seiners in the approaches to salmon rivers in western Newfoundland and Labrador and the Labrador Strait. The areas near the mouths of these rivers are closed to all commercial fishing activity to protect Atlantic salmon and are designated by caution signs which define inland versus coastal waters. Capelin fishing must occur outside the caution signs.

Any incidental catch of cod or salmon must be immediately returned to the water, and where it is alive in a manner that causes the least harm.

7.11 Concentration of fishing effort and catches

The majority of the fishing effort and catch occurs in a relatively small part of the overall stock area (especially in the case of the purse seine fishery). How this may impact on local stock components or the stock as a whole is unclear. In view of this uncertainty, it is preferable for the fishery to take place throughout a stock area or over as wide a geographic area as possible.

This is easily accomplished in the fixed gear fishery where fish harvesters are licenced for a particular area/bay. However, in the mobile fleet, the vessels are mobile and will fish where the resource is readily available and abundant.

8. Shared stewardship arrangements

There are no formal shared stewardship arrangements in the 4RST capelin fishery. However as noted throughout the IFMP, DFO officials work closely with the harvesting and processing sectors in all aspects of fisheries management, science, and conservation and protection.

8.1 Oceans management initiatives promoting shared stewardship

DFO is leading initiatives in integrated oceans management, including MPA network planning within the Newfoundland and Labrador Shelves and Estuary, and Gulf of St. Lawrence Bioregions. This provides a collaborative governance model founded on principles of shared responsibility. As a result, stewardship is promoted by providing a forum for consultation with stakeholders who want to be engaged in marine resource or activity management decisions that affect them.

Aligning integrated oceans management with fisheries management plans will support evidence-based resource use and fisheries management decisions. These decisions will be made with input from multiple interests, including commercial fisheries and other stakeholder groups.

8.2 Working arrangements: Existing agreements

There has been a Contribution Agreement between DFO and the FFAW that supports the Fisheries Stewardship Program, which enabled fish harvesters province-wide to share and expand their knowledge and to develop tools necessary to adopt sustainable fishing practices as part of shared stewardship and to implement a broader fisheries conservation ethic. While DFO has not contributed financially toward this year’s program, it does recognize the progress being made on the stewardship front and continues to collaborate in those efforts where possible.

9. Compliance plan

9.1 Conservation and Protection Program description

The deployment of Conservation and Protection (C&P) resources in the fishery is conducted in accordance with management plan objectives, as well as in response to emerging issues. The mix of enforcement options available and over-riding conservation objectives determine the level and type of enforcement activity. 

Work plans at the regional, area and detachment levels are designed to establish priorities based on management objectives and conservation concerns. The monitoring and evaluation elements of enforcement work plans facilitate in-season adjustments should conservation concerns and/or significant occurrences of non-compliance emerge.

9.2 Compliance performance

The Conservation and Protection program promotes and maintains compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures implemented to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of Canada’s aquatic resources, and the protection of species at risk, fish habitat and oceans.

The program is delivered through a balanced regulatory management and enforcement approach. Specifically:

Pillar 1: Education and shared stewardship

Conservation and Protection officers actively participate in consultation processes with the fishing industry and Indigenous groups to address compliance issues. Informal meetings with stakeholders also occur on an ad-hoc basis to resolve in-season matters, in addition to regular interaction with fish harvesters. The consultative process may include C&P membership on area integrated management planning committees, which are comprised of fish harvesters, representatives from the provincial and federal governments, and other community groups with an interest in fishery conservation issues.

Fishery officers also visit local schools and educational institutions to present and discuss fisheries conservation issues and use this information as part of the C&P planning process.

Pillar 2: Monitoring, control and surveillance

Compliance monitoring

C&P promotes compliance with management measures governing the fishery through:

Patrols by vehicle, vessel and fixed-wing aircraft are conducted in accordance with operational plans which are developed based on available intelligence.

Each C&P detachment ensures that monitoring and inspections of fish landing activity are carried out on a routine basis. Where a vessel is selected for comprehensive inspection, C&P ensures that catch composition, weight verification and size variation sampling is conducted. C&P also ensures that surveillance flights are conducted on a routine basis. 

The VMS system provides real-time data on the location of vessels within portions of this fleet. C&P uses this resource to help determine where the enterprise is fishing, the port of destination and the estimated time of arrival to port. VMS data will also be relied upon for future analysis and comparisons of fishing activity.  

At-sea observers are randomly deployed to observe, record and report aspects of the fishing activity. The resulting data is used to compare catch composition of vessels on observed trips vs. non-observed trips. C&P also reviews quota monitoring reports to ensure individual quotas are not exceeded.

C&P supplies best-known available local information to the National Fisheries Intelligence service for processing and uses this intelligence to combat all types of illegal fishing activity. 

Compliance performance

C&P conducts post-season analysis sessions to review issues encountered during the previous season and to make recommendations on improving management measures. The initial sessions are conducted at the area level, followed by a regional session with other DFO sectors.

Pillar 3: Major case

C&P recognizes the need to focus attention on high-risk illegal activities that pose significant threat to the achievement of conservation objectives, which usually cannot be addressed through education or routine monitoring. Some individuals, usually motivated by financial gain, persist through various complex and well-coordinated means in hiding illegal activities which put Canada’s aquatic resources at risk. 

C&P will focus on high-risk illegal activities that pose significant conservation threats.  Detailed analysis of licence holders and possibly companies will be completed using:

Targeting of high risk violators and / or processing facilities will be also be a primary focus should intelligence gathered warrant such action.  Any resulting operations will be conducted in conjunction with NFIS staff, additional field staff and area resources as required.

9.3 Current compliance issues

The primary focus of C&P efforts for the duration of this IFMP is on verifying compliance with the requirement to report accurately all fishing activities related to capelin.

Compliance issues in this fishery include:

By-catch monitoring is a primary focus for C&P. DFO has received reports suggesting that some fish harvesters have been targeting other species such as salmon using bait nets and other fixed gear. License conditions have been implemented to help reduce these occurrences by ensuring gear in sensitive areas is placed lower in the water column and runs parallel to the shoreline.

Closures of specific areas have also been implemented and will continue.

C&P understands the economic and conservation benefits of retrieving all catch from gear. As such, C&P is supportive of secondary vessels being used to retrieve capelin catch from gear at the request of another fish harvester where the catch is in excess of the first vessel's capacity/IQ and the secondary vessel has been licensed, readily equipped and is participating in the capelin fishery.

C&P monitors unmonitored landings in the capelin fishery throughout day and night. This enables DFO to verify DMP landings of capelin by verifying random weigh-outs and ensuring fish harvesters who are authorized to land capelin using an authorization number do so by estimating their catch as accurately as possible. Both overt and covert patrols will be used.

9.4 Compliance strategy

C&P has developed an operational plan that outlines monitoring and compliance activities that will be carried out by C&P personnel adjacent to the 4RST capelin management areas. The plan provides guidance for C&P, promotes effective monitoring of the fishery, and enables C&P personnel to effectively maintain compliance with management measures governing this fishery. The objective of the plan is to collect information for ensuring compliance and conducting investigations.

The objective is to collect information for ensuring compliance and conducting investigations.   Sources of information used by C&P include:

10. Performance review

A review of the short-term and long-term objectives during the two-year planning cycle is an integral part of assessing the performance of the fishery. During the regional assessment process on the status of the stock, DFO Science may consider the applicable objectives in providing its advice. For fisheries management, the advisory meeting with industry is a formal setting to review both short and long-term objectives. In addition to these formal reviews, DFO officials and industry representatives have an on-going dialogue on the fishery on a year-round basis. These informal discussions provide opportunities to review objectives and identify issues for discussion at the annual advisory meeting.

DFO NL Region completes an annual internal post-season review with participation from Resource Management, Conservation and Protection, and Science staff. Regional headquarters and area-based staff participate in this process to identify local, area and regional fishery performance issues. DFO undertakes every effort to outline steps to address the issues, including assigning responsibility and setting timelines for completion. Those items not resolved during the post-season review are carried forward to the following year to be addressed.

The Performance Review outlines the activities and controls that are used in achieving fisheries management objectives. Table 2 identifies the specific strategies that are used to achieve fisheries management objectives.

Table 3: Measurable objectives/activities and fisheries management strategies
Objectives Fisheries management strategies
Conservation and sustainable harvest
To conserve the capelin resource to provide commercial sustainability to fish harvesters
  • Fishing season
  • Total allowable catch
  • Quota monitoring
To mitigate the impacts on other species, habitat and the ecosystem where capelin fishing occurs, protecting biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function
  • Mandatory reporting of lost gear
  • Prohibit use of monofilament netting material
  • Species at Risk Act
To promote the development of sustainable fishing practices
  • Minimum size possession limit
To employ effective monitoring and surveillance tools and mechanisms that ensure compliance with conservation measures and provide scientists with appropriate information and basic data required to manage the capelin fishery
  • Accurate completion of logbooks
  • Reliable dockside monitoring program
  • Adequate level of at-sea observer coverage, both spatial and temporal
  • Adherence to electronic vessel monitoring system (VMS) requirements
Benefits to stakeholders
To promote the continued development of a
commercially viable and self-sustaining fishery
  • Aboriginal access and allocation formulas are maintained in the IFMP and opportunities for additional access are addressed through the Allocation Transfer Program
To provide fish harvesters with increased
opportunity for long-term business stability
  • Stable sharing arrangements
  • Evergreen management plans
To promote a co-management approach, providing stakeholders with an effective sharing of responsibility, accountability and decision making, within the constraints of the Fisheries Act
  • Establish an effective consultative process for stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process
  • Organize and participate in annual advisory meetings
  • Improve management of fishery through co-management

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) measures the performance of the fisheries that it manages through the Sustainability Survey for Fisheries (SFF). The survey is published every year and currently includes 170 fish stocks, with more added each year. The fish stocks were selected because of their economic or cultural importance; they represent the majority of total catch of fisheries managed by DFO.

The Sustainability Survey for Fisheries reports on the status of each fish stock and DFO’s progress to implement its Sustainable Fisheries Framework policies, a set of national policies to guide the sustainable management of Canada’s fisheries.

11. Glossary of terms

Aboriginal traditional knowledge: knowledge that is held by and unique to Aboriginal peoples.  It is a living body of knowledge that is cumulative and dynamic, and adapted over time to reflect changes in the social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political spheres of the Aboriginal knowledge holders. It often includes knowledge about the land and its resources, spiritual beliefs, language, mythology, culture, laws, customs and medicines.

Abundance: number of individuals in a stock or a population

Age composition: proportion of individuals of different ages in a stock or in the catches

Area/Subarea: an area defined by the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries by NAFO, and as described in the Atlantic Fishery Regulations, 1985

Biomass: total weight of all individuals in a stock or a population

Bioregion: a biogeographic division of Canada's marine waters out to the edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone, and including the Great Lakes, based on attributes such as bathymetry, influence of freshwater inflows, distribution of multi-year ice, and species distribution. Canada’s marine protected areas network is being advanced in five priority marine bioregions: the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Scotian Shelf, the Newfoundland-Labrador Shelves, the Western Arctic, and the Northern Shelf.

By-catch: the unintentional catch of one species when the target is another species

Catch per Unit Effort (CPUE): the amount caught for a given fishing effort, e.g. tonnes of shrimp per tow or kilograms of fish per hundred longline hooks

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC):  committee of experts who assess and designate which wild species are in some danger of disappearing from Canada

Communal commercial licence: licence issued to Aboriginal organizations pursuant to the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licences Regulations for participation in the general commercial fishery

Discards: portion of a catch thrown back into the water after it is caught in fishing gear

Dockside Monitoring Program (DMP): A monitoring program conducted by a company that has been designated by DFO to verify the species composition and landed weight of all fish landed from a commercial fishing vessel

Ecosystem-based management: taking into account species interactions and the interdependencies between species and their habitats when making resource management decisions

Fishing effort: quantity of effort using a given fishing gear over a given period of time

Fishing mortality: death caused by fishing, often symbolized by the mathematical symbol F

Fixed gear: a type of fishing gear that is set in a stationary position. This includes traps, weirs, gillnets, longlines, handlines, bar/beach seines and modified bar seines (known as tuck seines)

Food, social and ceremonial (FSC): a fishery conducted by Aboriginal groups for food, social and ceremonial purposes

Groundfish: species of fish living near the bottom such as cod, haddock, halibut and flatfish

Landings: quantity of a species caught and landed

Maximum sustainable yield: largest average catch that can continuously be taken from a stock

Mobile gear: any type of fishing gear that is drawn through the water by a vessel to entrap fish, including purse seines

Natural mortality: mortality due to natural causes, represented by the mathematical symbol M

Observer coverage:  carrying a certified at-sea observer onboard a fishing vessel for a specific period of time to verify the amount of fish caught, the area in which it was caught and the method by which it was caught

Otolith: structure of the inner ear of fish, made of calcium carbonate. Also called "ear bone" or "ear stone". Otoliths are examined to determine the age of fish as annual rings can be observed and counted. Daily increments are also visible on larval otoliths

Pelagic: fish that lives in the water column or close to the surface

Population: group of individuals of the same species, forming a breeding unit, and sharing a habitat

Precautionary approach: set of agreed cost-effective measures and actions, including future courses of action, which ensures prudent foresight, reduces or avoids risk to the resource, the environment, and the people, to the extent possible, taking explicitly into account existing uncertainties and the potential consequences of being wrong

Purse seine: large net used to encircle fish and equipped with a wire rope on the bottom to draw the net together. A small boat, called a "skiff", participates in manoeuvring the net.

Quota: portion of the Total Allowable Catch that a fleet, vessel class, association, country, etc. is permitted to take from a stock in a given period of time

Recruitment: the number of individuals growing large enough to become part of the exploitable stock, e.g. that can be caught in a fishery

Research survey: survey at sea, on a research vessel, allowing scientists to obtain information on the abundance and distribution of various species and/or collect oceanographic data (e.g., bottom trawl survey, plankton survey, hydroacoustic survey, etc.)

Species at Risk Act (SARA):  a federal law enabling the Government to take action to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct and secure the necessary actions for their recovery.  It provides the legal protection of wildlife species and the conservation of their biological diversity.

Spawner: sexually mature individual

Spawning stock: sexually mature individuals in a stock

Stock: a population of individuals of one species found in a particular area, and used as a unit for fisheries management, e.g. NAFO area 4R Herring

Stock assessment: scientific evaluation of the status of a fish stock within a particular area in a given time period

Total Allowable Catch (TAC): the amount of catch that may be taken from a stock

Traditional Ecological Knowledge: a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment

Tonne: metric tonne, 1000kg or 2204.6 lbs

Validation: the verification by an observer of the weight of fish landed

Vessel size: length overall

Year-class: individuals of a same stock born in a particular year, also called "cohort"

Appendix 1: Stock assessment results

Science advice, proceedings and stocks assessments/scientific evaluations resulting from Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) meetings are available in the CSAS publications section. 

Appendix 2: Management measures for the duration of the plan

This Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, combined with responsible fishing practices, should ensure that the conservation goals are met. However, if the fishery is not conducted in an orderly manner, DFO may implement additional management measures or controls in these fisheries.

Appendix 3: 4RST Capelin Advisory Committee membership

Name Organization
DFO Co-Chairs
Ray Walsh DFO Newfoundland and Labrador
Jean Picard DFO Quebec
Mireille Chiasson DFO Gulf
Industry representatives
Sam Anderson >65' mobile gear representative
Allan Sheppard fixed gear representative
Bill Barry Barry Group
Joe Barry Barry Group
Arthur Billett Ministère de l'agriculture, des pêcheries et de l'alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) - Quebec
Jason Spingle Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor)
Nancy Pond Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Land Resources
Willis Hickey <65’ purse seine fleet representative
Ross Fequet Lower North Shore Fishermen’s Association
Loomis Way fixed gear representative
Shawn Normore Labrador Fisherman’s Union Shrimp Company
DFO representatives
Antoine Rivierre DFO Quebec – Resource Management
Mario Gaudet DFO Gulf – Resource Management
Andrew Smith DFO Quebec – Science
Paul Glavine DFO NL – Policy and Economics
  DFO NL – Area Director
Laurie Hawkins DFO NL – Area Resource Management
Erin Dunne DFO NL – HQ Resource Management
Brent Watkins DFO NL – Conservation and Protection

Appendix 4: Allocation Table and Quota Report 2015-2019

*To ensure that private information cannot be extracted from fishery landings and catch information, DFO does not provide landings and catch information for a specific fishery when the fishery has fewer than five fishing enterprises, five fishing vessels or five buyers participating in a fishery. This measure protects the privacy and economic interests of participants in the fishery. Note: all calculations are in metric tonnes (MT).

NAFO Fleet Quota area Quota 2015 catch 2016 catch 2017 catch Quota 2018 catch 2019 catch
4R Fixed gear South of Cape St. Gregory 431 227 * * 280 * *
    Cape St. Gregory to Broom Point 431 * * * 280 * *
    Broom Point to Point Riche 598 * * * 389 * *
    Point Riche to Big Brook 1,934 * * * 1,257 * *
    Big Brook to Cape Bauld 1,055 2,307 1,226 * 686 * *
    Gulf shore Labrador 959 * * * 623 * *
  Mobile gear West coast 4R3Pn <65' 3,453 3,142 * * 2,245 * *
    West coast 4R3Pn >65' 3,453 * * * 2,245 * *
4ST   4ST capelin 1985 * * * 1,290 * *
    TOTAL 14,299       9,295 * *

Appendix 5: Map of 4RST & Capelin fishing area

Map showing the fishing areas within the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Map showing the fishing areas off the Atlantic coast.

Appendix 6: Safety at sea

Vessel owners and masters have a duty to ensure the safety of their crew and vessel.  Adherence to safety regulations and good practices by owners, masters and crew of fishing vessels will help save lives, protect the vessel from damage and protect the environment.  All fishing vessels must be in a seaworthy condition and maintained as required by Transport Canada and other applicable agencies.  Vessels subject to inspection should have a certificate of inspection valid for the area of intended operation. 

In the federal government, responsibility for regulating shipping, navigation, and vessel safety lies with Transport Canada, while emergency response is the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). DFO has responsibility for the management of fisheries resources, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) has jurisdiction over health and safety issues in the workplace. 

Before leaving on a voyage the owner, master or operator must ensure that the fishing vessel is capable of safely making the passage.  Critical factors for a safe voyage include:

Useful publications include Transport Canada’s Small Fishing Vessel Safety Manual which can be obtained from TC or printed from their website.

Fishing vessel safety includes three priority areas:

Fishing vessel stability

Vessel stability is paramount for safety.  Care must be given to the stowage and securing of all cargo, skiffs, equipment, fuel containers and supplies, and also to correct ballasting. Fish harvesters must be familiar with their vessel’s centre of gravity, the effect of free surface liquids on stability, loose water or fish on deck, loading and unloading operations and the vessel’s freeboard.  Fish harvesters should know the limitations of their vessels. If unsure, the vessel operator should contact a qualified naval architect, marine surveyor or the local Transport Canada Marine Safety office.

Fishing vessel owners are required to develop detailed instructions addressing the limits of stability for each of their vessels.  The instructions must be based on a formal assessment of the vessel by a qualified naval architect and include detailed safe operation documentation. Instructions should be kept on board the vessel at all times.

Fishing vessel owners should also keep on-board detailed documentation on engine room procedures, maintenance schedules to ensure watertight integrity, and instructions for regular practice of emergency drills.

Emergency drill requirements

The vessel master must establish procedures and assign responsibilities to each crew member for emergencies such as crew member overboard, fire, flooding, abandoning ship and calling for help.

Since July 30, 2003 all crew members with more than six months at sea are required to have taken minimum Marine Emergency Duties (MED) training or be registered for such training. 

MED provides a basic understanding of:

Cold water immersion

Drowning is the number one cause of death in the fishing industry. Cold water is defined as water below 25 degrees Celsius, but the greatest effects occur below 15 degrees Celsius.  Newfoundland and Labrador waters are usually below 15 degrees. 

The effects of cold water on the body occur in four stages:

Vessel masters should know what to do to prevent themselves or their crew from falling into the water and what to do if that occurs.

Other issues


Vessel owners and masters are reminded of the importance of paying close attention to current weather trends and forecasts during the voyage.  Marine weather information and forecasts can be obtained from Environment Canada’s website.

Emergency radio procedures

Vessel owners and masters should ensure that all crew are able to activate the Search and Rescue (SAR) system by contacting the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) early rather than later.      It is strongly recommended that all fish harvesters carry a registered 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). These beacons should be registered with Coast Guard’s National Search and Rescue secretariat. When activated, an EPIRB transmits a distress call that is picked up or relayed by satellites and transmitted via land earth stations to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC), which will task and co-ordinate rescue resources.

All crew members should know how to make a distress call and should obtain their restricted operator certificate from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada). Whenever possible, masters should contact the nearest Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) station prior to a distress situation developing.  Correct radio procedures are important for communications in an emergency.  Incorrect or misunderstood communications may hinder a rescue response.

Since August 1, 2003 all commercial vessels greater than 20 metres in length are required to carry a Class D VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radio. A registered DSC VHF radio has the capability to alert other DSC equipped vessels in the immediate area and advise Coast Guard MCTS that the vessel is in distress.  Masters should be aware that they should register their DSC radios with ISED Canada to obtain a Marine Mobile Services Identity (MMSI) number; otherwise the automatic distress calling feature of the radio may not work.

A DSC radio that is connected to a GPS unit will also automatically include the vessel’s current position in the distress message.  More detailed information on MCTS and DSC can be obtained by contacting a local MCTS center or from the Canadian Coast Guard.

Collison regulations

Fish harvesters should have a thorough knowledge of the Collision Regulations and the responsibilities between vessels where risk of collision exists.  Navigation lights must be kept in good working order and must be displayed from sunset to sunrise and during all times of restricted visibility. To help reduce the potential for collision or close quarters situations that may also result in the loss of fishing gear, fish harvesters are encouraged to monitor the appropriate local Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) VHF channel, when travelling or fishing near shipping lanes or other areas frequented by large commercial vessels. 

Vessels required to participate in VTS include:

Exceptions include:

Additional information can be found on the Collision Regulations page. 

Sail plan

An important trip consideration is the use of a sail plan which includes the particulars of the vessel, crew and voyage. The sail plan should be left with a responsible person on shore or filed with the local MCTS centre. After leaving port the fish harvester should contact the holder of the sail plan daily or as per another schedule. The sail plan should ensure notification to JRCC when communication is not maintained which might indicate your vessel is in distress.  Be sure to cancel the sail plan upon completion of the voyage

Appendix 7: C&P enforcement data for 4RST capelin

Number of fishery officer dedicated to 4RST capelin by DFO Newfoundland and Labrador region (2015-2019)
Year Fishery officer patrol hours Non patrol hours Program other Total fishery officer hours Vessels checked Persons checked Gear checked Sites checked
2015 72 78 34 184 13 12 8 16
2016 89 655 139 882 19 18 9 14
2017 75 469 87 631 10 1 0 13
2018       516 19 10 2 70
2019 101     842 1 1 0 13
Five-year average       611 12.4 8.4 3.8 25.2
Number of Newfoundland and Labrador region capelin occurrences (2013-2019)
Management area 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
4R 2 5 5 18 2 21 21
Gulf region enforcement effort: 4RST capelin 2015-2019
Description Mobile Fixed Mobile Fixed Mobile Fixed Mobile Fixed Mobile Fixed
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Total fishery officer hours 0 0.5 0 0 0 0.5 0 0.5 0 0
Total patrol hours 0 0.5 0 0 0 0.5 0 0.5 0 0
Charges laid 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Warnings issued 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Quebec region enforcement effort: 4RST capelin 2012-2019
*Fixed gear only
Description 2012 2013 2014* 2015 2016 2017** 2018 2019
Total fishery officer hours 3.0 22.00 0 51.50 10.5   14 9.5
Total patrol hours 5.0 28.00 0 51.50 10.5   14 9.5
Charges laid 0 0 0 0 0   0 0
Warnings issued 0 0 0 0 0   0 0

*Note: there was no capelin in Quebec region area in 2014

**Data unavailable

Appendix 8: Departmental contacts

Contact Telephone Fax Email
DFO Regional Headquarters, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
P.O. Box 5667, St. John's, NL, A1C 5X1
Erin Dunne
Resource Manager,
(709) 772-3600 (709) 772-3628
Kerry Bungay
Chief Enforcement Operations
Conservation & Protection
(709) 772-0468 (709) 772-4327
Frank Corbett
Policy Analyst
(709) 772-6935 (709) 772-4583
Andrew Smith
Biologist (DFO Quebec)
(418) 775-0633
DFO Newfoundland and Labrador area offices - Resource Management
David Small
Area Chief (3KL)
Grand Falls-Windsor
(709) 292-5167 (709) 292-5205
Mark Simms
Area Chief (2J)
Happy Valley-Goose Bay
(709) 896-6157 (709) 896-8419
Laurie Hawkins
Area Chief (3P, 4R)
Corner Brook
(709) 637-4310 (709) 637-4445
DFO Newfoundland and Labrador area offices – Conservation and Protection
Chad Ward
Area Chief (3KLPs)
St. John’s
(709) 772-5857 (709) 772-2659
Brent Watkins
Area Chief
(2GHJ, 4R3Pn)
Corner Brook
(709) 637-4334 (709) 637-4445
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