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Capelin (Mallotus villosus) Newfoundland & Labrador Region Divisions 2+3 (Capelin Fishing Areas 1-11)


Image of capelin
(Mallotus villosus)

This is the annual integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for the Newfoundland and Labrador Region’s Capelin fishery in NAFO Divisions 2J3KLPs (2+3) developed in consultation with capelin fish harvesters and other stakeholders. This is an evergreen IFMP.

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 2+3, 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 is 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 Total Allowable Catch (TAC), as well as adjustments to annexes and website listings.

Tony Blanchard
Regional Director General
Newfoundland and Labrador Region

Table of Contents

1.0 Overview of the fishery
2.0 Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge
3.0 Economic, social and cultural importance of the fishery
4.0 Management issues
5.0 Objectives
6.0 Access and allocation
7.0 Management measures
8.0 Shared stewardship arrangements
9.0 Compliance plan
10.0 Performance review
11.0 Glossary of terms

1.0 Overview of the fishery

1.1 History of the fishery

Historically, a domestic fishery with an estimated annual harvest of about 25,000 tonnes existed for spawning capelin on Newfoundland and Labrador beaches to provide food, bait and fertilizer for local residents.

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s a very small number of fish harvesters prosecuted the capelin fishery for commercial purposes; however, with the increased demand for roe in the Japanese capelin market from the mid to the late 1980’s, so too did the number of commercial fish harvesters participating in the fishery.

The inshore fishery for roe capelin began during the late 1970s with Japan being the primary market destination for roe-bearing females. In recent years, new markets are being developed for non-roe-bearing females and males. Meanwhile, difficulties with the capelin fisheries in Norway and Iceland have resulted in increased demand for capelin products from Newfoundland and Labrador resulting in improved market opportunities and prices.

1.2 Type of fishery

Note: for ease of reference, the Divisions 2J3KLPs capelin fishery will hence be referred to by the abbreviated reference of 2+3 capelin fishery.

Of the four capelin stocks around Newfoundland and Labrador, only 2J3KL and 3Ps capelin in eastern and southern Newfoundland and Labrador are covered by this IFMP. Although they are currently considered two separate stocks, both elements are managed under the same management plan.

The capelin stock in 3NO is managed by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) and does not include a Canadian fishery. The 4RST capelin stock on the west coast of Newfoundland and Southern Labrador, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence is covered under a separate IFMP; Capelin - NAFO Divisions 4RST (Capelin Fishing Areas 12 - 16)

Capelin is fished using both fixed and mobile gear. The fixed gear capelin fishery uses traps and modified bar seines known as tuck seines. The mobile gear fleet uses purse seines.

The 2+3 capelin fishery is managed on the basis of a single Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The TAC is managed under the IFMP with a mix of competitive and Individual Quota (IQ) fisheries, depending on the Capelin Fishing Area (CFA) and gear type involved. IQ fisheries are implemented in portions of:

1.3 Participants

There are approximately 93 active mobile gear participants and 252 active fixed gear participants in the 2+3 capelin fishery for a total of 345 active participants.

In 2020, capelin licenses were issued to 1,409 fixed gear fish harvesters and 230 mobile gear fish harvesters. There is limited entry in the 2+3 capelin fishery; no new licenses are available.

By way of comparison, there were 947 licenced capelin fish harvesters in 2+3 in 1984. This increased to a high of 2,693 in 1989 with most of the expansion in the fixed gear sector. Mobile gear licences increased from 190 licenses in 1984 to a peak of 233 licenses in 1988.

Included in the number of commercial licences are communal commercial capelin licences issued to Indigenous organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

1.4 Location of the fishery

The bulk of today's inshore capelin fishery occurs along the east and northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador where the major stock component is located (NAFO Division 3KL). [See Figures 1 and 2]

Map of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Management NAFO Divisions
Figure 1: Map of Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Management NAFO Divisions.
Map of Capelin Fishing Areas around Newfoundland and Labrador
Figure 2: Map of Capelin Fishing Areas around Newfoundland and Labrador.

1.5 Fishery characteristics

The 2+3 capelin fishery is managed on the basis of an annual management plan. The current management cycle runs from January 1 to December 31. Science advice on the stock and subsequent advisory meetings with stakeholders and Indigenous groups occur every year. Additional meetings with stakeholders may be added to this schedule for any reason deemed appropriate by DFO.

Capelin is fished using both fixed and mobile gear. The fixed gear 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’ purse seine vessels. The mobile gear fishery occurs where the resource is available in Capelin Fishing Areas (CFAs) 1-11.

1.6 Governance

The 2+3 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 Department receives advice on the management of the capelin fishery through an advisory process. The advisory process 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.

The last 2+3 capelin advisory meeting was held on March 29, 2021. A list of advisory committee members is provided in [Appendix 3].

1.7 Approval process

The Integrated Fisheries Management Plan is approved by the Regional Director General of 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 licence conditions are tabled by DFO officials at the annual 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.

2.0 Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge

2.1 Stock structure and species biology

Capelin (Mallotus villosus) is a small pelagic schooling species with a circumpolar distribution with major populations occurring in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, the waters around Iceland, the Barents Sea and the northern Pacific Ocean. Since 1992, Capelin in Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) Divisions (Divs.) 2J, 3K and 3L (Fig. 1) have been considered a single stock complex and are assessed as such. There are four other recognized Capelin stocks in Canadian waters: the Southeast Shoal (Divs. 3NO), St. Pierre Bank (Subdiv. 3Ps), Gulf of St. Lawrence (Divs. 4RST), and the Scotian Shelf (Divs. 4W).

Capelin are a key forage species in the Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) ecosystem. Capelin feed on zooplankton and transfer energy to higher trophic level predators including finfishes (i.e. Atlantic cod and turbot), marine mammals, and seabirds. Capelin is a short-lived species (4-6 years) that undergoes ‘boom-and-bust’ population cycles, typically in response to changing environmental conditions. Capelin recruitment is highly variable and year-class strength is set early during the larval stage (Frank and Leggett 1981a; Leggett et al. 1984; Dalley et al. 2002; Murphy et al. 2018) . Capelin are primarily distributed offshore on the shelf break in Div. 2J3KL and move inshore to the coast and bays of NL to spawn in the summer. Capelin deposit their eggs in beach sediments as well as at demersal (< 40 m depth) spawning sites close to beaches. Choice of spawning site is primarily based on temperature with an increase in demersal spawning when beaches reach 12 °C (Templeman 1948, Nakashima and Wheeler 2002, Crook et al. 2017). Egg development is temperature dependent with larvae emerging from beach sites 2-3 weeks after spawning (Frank and Leggett 1981b) and from demersal sites in 4+ weeks (Penton and Davoren 2013). Larvae grow and develop in the bays of Newfoundland before moving offshore. The larval stage is prolonged in Capelin with metamorphosis to the juvenile stage occurring 8-12 months after hatch (<7.5 cm TL) (Vesin et al. 1981). The primary nursery area for 2J3KL Capelin is offshore in Div. 3L. During the fall, both immature and maturing Capelin are distributed offshore in Divs. 2J3KL where they feed and overwinter. Adults range in size from 12 to 23 cm with males larger at age compared to females.

The 2J3KL Capelin stock experienced a collapse in the early-1990s (reviewed in Buren et al 2019). The annual spring acoustic survey index of largely immature (age-2) Capelin declined by an order of magnitude from 6 million t in the late‑1980s to less than 150,000 t in 1991. Since 1991, the index has remained low, averaging 250,000 t over the past three decades. Historically, Capelin matured and spawned at ages 3 - 4. Following the collapse of the 2J3KL Capelin stock in the early‑1990s, the stock experienced faster immature growth, likely a compensatory response to less competition for food, and, consequently fish matured earlier at ages 2-3. During periods where immature fish have high growth rates, year-classes will mature and spawn at a younger age (e.g., Ricker 1981). Since the majority of NL capelin are semelparous (Shackell et al. 1994), increased growth rates of immature fish and earlier maturation results in a spawning population that is both younger and smaller in length compared to fish maturing and spawning at older ages.

Before the stock collapse, the timing of peak Capelin beach spawning was between late-June and mid-July. Since 1991, peak beach spawning times have been persistently delayed by approximately 18 days compared to earlier in the 20th century (1919 - 1990; Murphy et al. in review). The delay in spawning timing is predicted when there are negative anomalies in the summer (June - August) North Atlantic Oscillation (decreased strength of westerly winds may impact transit time into the bays); NL climate index (cold oceanographic conditions may delay gonad development); and mean length of the spawning stock (smaller fish may take longer to migrate inshore; Murphy et al. in review). Weak year-classes are predicted to occur when spawning is later in the summer (Murphy et al. in review), likely due to match/mismatch dynamics where late emerging larvae may miss ideal environmental conditions for survival (i.e. onshore wind events, zooplankton availability) (Frank and Leggett 1982; Leggett et al. 1984; Carscadden et al. 2000; Murphy et al. 2018). Three decades of delayed spawning is predicted to have a negative impact on the productivity of the stock.

2.2 Ecosystem interactions

Capelin is an integral component of the ecosystem and interacts with both lower and higher trophic levels in marine food webs.

Primary (chlorophyll) and secondary (zooplankton biomass) production indices have improved over the past 3-4 years. Recent changes in zooplankton community structure have resulted in fewer large, lipid-rich copepods, which are an important energy source for adult Capelin, and increased abundance of small copepods (DFO 2019), which can result in poor foraging conditions for adults (Buren et al. 2014) but improved foraging conditions for larval Capelin (Murphy et al. 2018).

Ecosystem conditions continue to be indicative of limited productivity of the fish community. Total RV biomass levels remain much lower than prior to the 1990s collapse. The increases in groundfish observed in the late-2000s and early-2010s appear associated with bottom-up processes, including an temporarily improved prey field, with modest increases in Capelin availability in the mid-2010s in comparison with the 1990s (Buren et al. 2019). Capelin and shrimp are key forage species in the ecosystem. More recent declines in total finfish biomass may be associated with simultaneous reductions in Capelin and shrimp availability (Fig. 2).

2.3 Aboriginal traditional knowledge

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

2.4 Stock assessment process

The most recent assessment of NAFO sub-area 2 + Division 3KL Capelin took place in March 2021.

2.5 Stock scenarios or stock assessment results

The capelin stock assessment is primarily based on two indices: the annual spring offshore acoustic survey of the southern portions of Div. 3K and all of Div. 3L from the 100 m depth contour to the 500 m depth contour, including an inshore acoustic survey of Trinity Bay, and the annual larval monitoring program in Trinity Bay. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no spring acoustic survey in May 2020. Additional data used in the assessment include Capelin distribution and biological characteristics from the fall multispecies survey (Divs. 2J3KL), information on the timing of spawning, biological data of spawning fish from the commercial catch, and environmental parameters.  A statistical model uses a number of these data sources to forecast Capelin biomass available to the spring acoustic survey in the upcoming year. The Capelin fishery targets spawning fish, but no estimate of the total spawning stock biomass is available.

The spring acoustic survey produces an index of abundance and biomass for the age 2  portion of the stock as it surveys the main capelin nursery area. The acoustic survey does not provide an estimate of the total capelin spawning stock biomass. Following a period of very low abundance in the 1990s and early 2000s, the abundance index increased slightly starting in 2007 (with the exception of a record low value recorded in 2010), peaking between 2013-15.  The Capelin abundance index subsequently declined; Capelin abundance in 2019 was approximately 70% of the 1999-2019 average (Figure 3).

For Capelin, stronger year-classes are predicted in years when beach spawning is earlier (Murphy et al. in review). Data on peak beach spawning timing (1919-2020) has been collected from a variety of sources, including newspaper archives, capelin spawning diaries and research beaches (Fig. 4). These data indicated that the timing of peak beach spawning continues to occur on average approximately 18 days later than the long-term average between 1919 and 1990 (Murphy et al. in review) with spawning timing in 2020 similar to the post-collapse average (1991-2019). Furthermore, the 2J3KL Capelin stock are facultative spawners that move between beaches and off-beach sites, with the proportion of capelin spawning at off-beach sites increasing when beaches become too warm (> 12 °C) for spawning later in the summer (Templeman 1948, Nakashima & Wheeler 2002, Crook et al. 2017). An increase in off-beach spawning has been observed since the collapse in the capelin stock (Nakashima & Clark 1999). However, like beach spawning since 1991, off-beach spawning is occurring later in the summer. Productivity from these off-beach sites may be low as eggs spawned at these sites have slower development rates (Penton et al. 2012), which reduces the foraging time of 0-group larvae before their first winter, and some off-beach sites can have lower hatching success (Nakashima & Wheeler 2002).  

Recruitment in Capelin is related to larval survival (e.g., Murphy et al. 2018). An index of capelin larval production from the nearshore area adjacent to Bellevue Beach, Trinity Bay (2001-2020) has been below average since 2014 and reached a time-series low in 2020 (Fig.5). There have been seven consecutive low larval abundance years (2014-20) including all year-classes available to the fishery in 2021.

Biological samples and distribution of capelin presence/absence data from the 2J3KL fall bottom trawl surveys were examined. An analysis of catches (1983-2020) found that Capelin are primarily distributed along the north-south axis, rather than east-west, with center of gravity (COG)  in 2020 at mid-latitude. There has been a general trend of a more northerly distribution and COG of the capelin stock when the stock abundance increases (e.g., 2013, 2014).

The mean body condition of Capelin in fall 2020 was above average. Increased fall condition may act to reduce overwintering mortality for this stock. It is unclear as to why fall condition was above average. Feeding conditions are currently thought to be poor but the effects of poor feeding conditions may be overestimated. Alternatively, a reduced capelin population size may be increasing the amount of prey available per individual.

A capelin forecast model (Lewis et al. 2019) which incorporates the capelin larval abundance index, adult fall capelin condition, and the timing of sea ice retreat (as a proxy for the spring bloom). The 2021 forecasted spring acoustic biomass index is ~233 kt which is near the average of the post-collapse period (Fig 6). The projection for 2021 is approximately 24% of the post-collapse high and approximately 6% of values observed in the late‑1980s (1985-90). 

In summary, current research suggests that the low values of the two main capelin indices are likely attributable to environmental conditions (e.g., bottom-up processes) including a decrease in abundance of the main prey of adult capelin. The impact of top-down processes, such as fishing and predation, are currently a research focus. Delayed spawning is predicted to produce weak year-classes. Younger age of maturation reduces the total number of older aged individuals in the population due to high post-spawning mortality, which impacts spawner size and is predicted to delay timing of spawning.  Based on all available evidence, Capelin abundance remains very low and the stock is experiencing reduced productivity. Under current ecosystem conditions and exploitation levels, no sustained growth has been observed for 30 years and prospects remain poor.  DFO Science continues to be very concerned about the status of this stock.

abundance index of capelin in NAFO Div. 3L and southern NAFO Div. 3K
Figure 3: Trends in the Research Vessel (RV) bottom trawl biomass index for the fish community in the Newfoundland Shelf and northern Grand Bank (Divs. 2J3KL) discriminated by fish functional groups. Indices for the Engel period have been scaled to be comparable to the Campelen series (Koen-Alonso and Cuff 2018). Shellfish data were not consistently collected during the Engel period; the index for this functional group is not available prior to 1995.
Standardized capelin larval abundance index from Trinity Bay
Figure 4: Spring (May) offshore acoustic abundance index of capelin in NAFO Div. 3L and southern NAFO Div. 3K (solid line) with 95% confidence intervals (grey shading). The upper figure includes the entire series (1988-2019) while the lower figure only shows the data from 1999-2019. There were no spring acoustic surveys in 1993-1995, 1997-1998, 2006, 2016. The offshore index is presented in black and grey, and the index for Trinity Bay is in blue. Source: 2020 SAR.
Standardized capelin larval abundance index from Trinity Bay
Figure 5: Annual median peak capelin spawning day using four data sources (i.e. newspaper archives, research beaches [Bryant’s Cove and Bellevue Beach], primary and grey literature, and capelin spawning diaries) from NAFO Divs. 2J3KLPs for the years 1919 -2020. Solid vertical line is 1991 (timing of collapse; Buren et al. 2019). Horizontal lines are mean peak spawning times pre-1991 (June 25; day-of-year [DOY]: 176; grey dashed line) and post-1990 (July 14; DOY: 195; black dashed line). Source: Murphy et al. (in review). Source: 2021 SAR.
Standardized capelin larval abundance index from Trinity Bay
Figure 6: Standardized capelin larval abundance index from Trinity Bay. Positive numbers are considered above average years and negative numbers are considered below average years. Standardized index was based on the average larval abundance from 2002-2012. Source: Capelin SAR 2021.
Figure 6: Standardized capelin larval abundance index from Trinity Bay
Year Annual Larval Production (m-3) Standardized Figure
2001 752.86 -1.19
2002 1030.82 -0.92
2003 577.82 -1.37
2004 605.77 -1.33
2005 2736.14 0.78
2006 2245.64 0.30
2007 3699.52 1.75
2008 1898.81 -0.05
2009 1881.47 -0.07
2010 1275.89 -0.67
2011 2620.22 0.67
2012 2867.48 0.92
2013 3770.14 1.82
2014 704.71 -1.24
2015 989.48 -0.96
2016 416.00 -1.53
2017 1114.59 -0.83
2018 129.16 -1.81
2019 398.85 -1.54
2020 115.51 -1.83
Results from the Capelin forecast model
Figure 7: The results from the Capelin forecast model including the 95% credible (light grey) and 80% prediction intervals (dark grey) for expected values of Capelin biomass in the spring acoustic survey (solid line) and observed values (point estimates with ±95% confidence intervals). Source: Capelin SAR 2021.

2.6 Precautionary approach

The Precautionary Approach in fisheries management is about being cautious when scientific knowledge is uncertain and not using the absence of adequate scientific information as a reason to postpone or fail to take action to avoid serious harm to fish stocks or their ecosystems. This approach is widely accepted as an essential part of sustainable fisheries management. Applying the Precautionary Approach to fisheries management decisions entails establishing a harvest strategy that:

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. Current research projects on capelin include the development limit reference points for capelin, identifying the drivers of recruitment variability in capelin, comparative capelin diet studies and studies on the caloric value of current Capelin prey.

3.0 Economic, social and cultural importance of the fishery

3.1 Socio-economic profile

Since 2011, capelin landings in NAFO Divisions 2+3 ranged from a low of about 16,090 tonnes (t) in 2020 to a high of about 27,390 t in 2016. Landings in 2020 were approximately 16,090 tonnes, a decline of approximately 21 per cent (or approximately 4,300 tonnes) from 2019.

see description
Figure 8: 2+3 Capelin TAC and Landings from 2011-2020. Source: Policy and Economics. TAC source: Fisheries Management. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.

Figure 8. 2+3 Capelin TAC and Landings from 2011-2020. Source: Policy and Economics. TAC source: Fisheries Management. Data is preliminary and subject to revision

Year Landings (t) TAC (t)
2011 20,134 24,396
2012 22,309 24,396
2013 23,755 30,496
2014 23,189 30,496
2015 25,051 30,496
2016 27,391 30,496
2017 19,914 30,496
2018 19,810 19,823
2019 20,404 22,796
2020 16,086 19,377

In 2020, the fixed gear sector accounted for approximately 63 per cent of total capelin landings, while mobile gear accounted for approximately 37 per cent. This proportion was similar to 2019, with fixed gear accounting for about 66 per cent and mobile gear for 34 per cent of landings.

In 2020, capelin landings occurred in 42 ports within NAFO Divisions 2+3, seven of which accounted for over half of the total landings. The top capelin landing ports (in terms of volume) were Port De Grave, Hickman’s Harbour, Long Cove, Burnside, Cupids, Summerville, Gooseberry Cove, Happy Adventure, Dover, and Lumsden South. Since 2016, Port De Grave and Hickman’s Harbour have been the top two ports for capelin landings.

3.2 Landings and landed value

The landed value of 2+3 capelin has fluctuated in the last decade, from a low of about $3.6 million in 2011 to a high of about $12.1 million in 2019. Despite an increase in the average landed price per pound, capelin landed value in 2020 decreased by approximately 18 per cent vis-à-vis 2019 [see Figures 7 and 8 below].

2+3 Capelin Landed Value (in millions) from 2009-2018
Figure 9: 2+3 Capelin Landed Value (in millions) from 2011-2020. Source: Policy and Economics. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.

Figure 9. 2+3 Capelin Landed Value (in millions) from 2011-2020. Source: Policy and Economics. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.

Year Landed value ($Millions)
2011 3.60
2012 4.77
2013 4.77
2014 7.36
2015 7.01
2016 10.08
2017 6.32
2018 7.42
2019 12.06
2020 9.89

Over the 10-year time period from 2011 to 2020, the average price per pound of 2+3 capelin has increased from a low of about $0.08 in 2011 to a high of approximately $0.28 in 2020 [see Figure 10 below].

Capelin fisheries in other countries can influence the level of demand and price for Newfoundland and Labrador capelin. Iceland and Norway are also major capelin exporting nations. The capelin fisheries in these areas typically occur during the months of January to April, much earlier than the capelin season in Newfoundland and Labrador. Of note, Iceland has established a 2021 capelin quota of 127,300 tonnes, of which 57,466 tonnes will be allotted to Norway. This if the first capelin quota in Iceland in three years.

Figure 10: 2+3 Capelin Average Landed Price per Pound from 2011-2020. Source: Policy and Economics. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.

Figure 10. 2+3 Capelin Average Landed Price per Pound from 2011-2020. Source: Policy and Economics. Data is preliminary and subject to revision.

Year Price per pound ($/lb)
2011 0.081
2012 0.097
2013 0.091
2014 0.144
2015 0.127
2016 0.167
2017 0.144
2018 0.17
2019 0.268
2020 0.279

3.3 Dependence on capelin

This section provides an overview of capelin dependence based solely less than 90 foot enterprises that harvested 2+3 capelin in 2020. “Dependence” in this instance is considered to be the percentage contribution of capelin to the total landed value of all species harvested by these enterprises.

In 2020, there were 219 active less than 40 foot enterprises with capelin landings. On average, capelin accounted for 25 per cent of the total landed value of all species harvested by these enterprises. Snow crab accounted for 48 per cent of the total landed value, while cod accounted for 11 per cent. The remaining proportion of the landed value was comprised of other shellfish (13 per cent), mackerel (1 per cent), other pelagics (1 per cent), and other groundfish (1 per cent).

There were 120 active 40 to 89 foot enterprises with capelin landings in 2+3 in 2020. On average, Capelin accounted for only about 10 per cent of total landed value for these enterprises. Snow crab was the most significant species, accounting for approximately 74 per cent of the total landed value. The remaining proportion of the landed value was comprised of mackerel (4 per cent), shrimp (2 per cent), cod (1 per cent), other groundfish (5 per cent), other pelagics (2 per cent), and other shellfish (2 per cent).

Preliminary 2020 data from the provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture indicates that approximately 20,194 tonnes of capelin was processed by 23 plants. This includes all capelin landed in the NL Region.

3.4 Exports

According to Statistics Canada, in 2020 Newfoundland and Labrador exported approximately 16,500 tonnes of capelin, with a total export value of approximately $53.9 million. China was the largest export destination for capelin products, accounting for about 46 per cent of export value. Other top export destinations included: the United States (17 per cent), Japan (11 per cent), Vietnam (6 per cent), and Taiwan (6 per cent) [see Figure 11 below].

Newfoundland and Labrador Capelin Exports by Country of Destination, Based on Export Value (2018)
Figure 11: Newfoundland and Labrador Capelin Exports by Country of Destination, Based on Export Value (2020). Source: Statistics Canada
Location Percentage (%)
China 46
United States 17
Japan 11
Vietnam 6
Taiwan 6
Ukraine 4
South Korea 3
Thailand 2
France 1
Lithuania 1
Other 3

4.0 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

One notable concern is by-catch of salmon and cod taken by pelagic traps. This issue has been discussed with industry and measures were implemented to minimize the potential for salmon by-catch in the commercial fishery.

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 Divisions 2+3 and 4R following consultations with stakeholders at advisory committee meetings.

Capelin fishing gear used in DFO Newfoundland and Labrador region are considered to have an insignificant to low impact to the ecosystem. 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. Fish harvesters are encouraged to review their license conditions for details as this practice is not permitted, i.e. all participants must be geared-up.

4.5 Marine conservation initiatives

As of August 2021, the Government of Canada has formally protected 13.81% of Canada’s marine and coastal areas.  The Government of Canada has further committed domestically to protecting 25% by 2025 and working towards 30% by 20303.

To meet marine conservation targets, Canada is establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs), in consultation with industry, non-government 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 the DFO website.

Although fishing for capelin is prohibited in some marine conservation areas around NL as part of the restrictions on fishing in these areas, there are no marine conservation measures in the 2+3 area designed to benefit capelin or place restrictions in the capelin fishery.  However, the Department could work with fish harvesters and other stakeholder groups to consider related proposals to protect capelin as part of marine conservation efforts.

4.6 Habitat considerations

DFO conserves and protects fish and fish habitat by applying the fish and fish habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act, in combination with the relevant provisions of the Species at Risk Act and the Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations to regulate works, undertakings or activities that could result in harmful impacts to fish and fish habitat. The Department can authorize harmful impacts to fish and fish habitat and has the authority to manage or control obstructions.

Proponents are responsible for planning and implementing works, undertakings or activities in a manner that avoids harmful impacts, specifically the death of fish and the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

If proponents believe that their work, undertaking or activity will result in harmful impacts to fish and fish habitat, the Department will work with proponents to assess the risk of their proposed work, undertaking or activity resulting in the death of fish or the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat and provide advice and guidance on how to comply with the Fisheries Act.

For more information on projects near water please visit the Department’s Measures to Protect Fish and Fish Habitat at the Projects near Water website to determine how best to plan the work, undertaking or activity in a manner that avoids harmful impacts to fish and fish habitat.

4.7 Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

The south coast of Newfoundland (NAFO 3Ps) has the highest concentration of invasive European green crab, with infestations in the northern and western areas of Placentia Bay and have spread in Fortune Bay. Currently (in 2018) no green crab has been reported from coastal areas of 3L, 3K or 2J. Green crab have also been found in large numbers in coastal areas of 4R, particularly near Bonne Bay and in Bay St. George, as far north as Port Saunders.

In NAFO divisions 3P, 3L and 4R some invasive tunicates have been detected in coastal areas, with invasive populations of concern concentrated in Placentia and Fortune Bays.

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 Market access

There is a market demand for ensuring fisheries are compliant with the Precautionary Approach, as seafood retailers have become increasingly committed to selling only seafood that has been certified as sustainable. Some groundfish fisheries in 2+3KLMNO have been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and industry has established several Fisheries Improvement Projects to move other fisheries in 2+3KLMNO towards meeting or exceeding the MSC standard. These initiatives have resulted in an increased focus on the development of PA-compliant frameworks, including the establishment of reference points and harvest control rules, which in turn is resulting in an increased demand for management and scientific capacity and capabilities.

Other market access challenges include the need for comparability measures to meet export requirements. 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, 2023, will be prohibited from entering the US market. Canada must make final application by November 31, 2021 demonstrating appropriate measures are in place in all Canadian fisheries.

5.0 Objectives

Long-term Objectives

DFO strives to manage the 2+3 capelin fishery based on the principles of stock conservation and sustainable harvest, as well as 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

Given the importance of capelin in the food web and for the ecosystem, conservation and the long-term sustainability of capelin is one of DFO’s most important objectives. It is vital that the stock grow and provide benefits for all stakeholders in the short and long-term. As such, DFO will work with all stakeholders to ensure this objective is achieved and that the capelin stock allows for an economically viable and self-reliant fishery.

Harvest levels will be set that allow the stock to grow and achieve a higher TAC than current levels. 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 a manner that would result in high exploitation rates on any of the stock components.

DFO will also work with industry to ensure adequate monitoring of all capelin catches, while minimizing by-catch of other species and small fish.

5.2 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.

Short-term Objectives

5.3 Stock conservation

Harvest levels will be set at cautious levels in keeping with the Precautionary Approach.

5.4 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 consumer, will strengthen the long-term health of the ecosystem.

6.0 Access and allocation

At this time, access to this fishery is considered to be limited (i.e. no new licenses are available) 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 Sharing arrangements

Commercial quotas are allocated by area, gear type and fleet shares which have been established through the advisory committee process. Quotas within each gear sector and area are fished competitively with the exception of a few defined IQ areas. The traditional fleet shares have recently stabilized.

6.2 Quotas and allocations

DFO is committed to economically prosperous fisheries and works with industry to ensure that fisheries are managed in such a way to achieve this goal. As such, DFO will consider, at the request of industry, the overrun of quotas in a particular Capelin Fishing Area (CFA), provided that there is sufficient uncaught quota in another CFA to ensure that the TAC will not be exceeded. In evaluating such a request, DFO will take the following points into consideration when forming a decision:

These decisions are made through direct consultation with industry as the fishery is occurring and require daily assessments of the condition and migration of capelin. As with all Resource Management decisions, conservation of the resource forms the foundation by which any decision to exceed the quota in a management area is made.

With the exception of Conception Bay, flexibility can be applied to the management of the mobile gear quotas to allow the removal of up to 2,300 tonnes by the purse seine fleet in any of the purse seine fleet areas subject to the constraints of the fleets overall quota. Unless participation levels exceed projected levels, this flexibility, combined with the seasonal and daily limits, should allow fish harvesters to catch their share of capelin without having to move beyond an adjacent bay.

The Quota Reconciliation Policy will continue to apply should an overrun occur in the competitive fishery TAC. The same process is also in place for the IQ fisheries in White Bay and Notre Dame Bay. Overruns in the competitive and IQ fishery will be reconciled each year 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 have been analyzed.

Capelin Quota Reports for 2016-2020 are available in [Appendix 5].

6.3 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 Innu Nation, Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, Miawpukek First Nation and the AAROM body Mi’kmaq Alsumk Mowimsikik Koqoey Association (MAMKA) are issued capelin licenses for 2+3 and participate in this fishery.

7.0 Management measures

7.1 Capelin Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2021 was set at 14,533 tonnes. The TAC was established based on science advice to describe current stock status and future prospects, and the outcome of consultations with industry.

7.2 Fishing seasons/areas

Throughout the 1980’s, the inshore fishery on the east coast usually started by mid-June in the south and finished about mid-July in the north. Throughout the 1990’s, the fishery was delayed by up to four weeks because of the late arrival of capelin, but in recent years the timing of the fishery has edged back toward the historic period, although still two weeks later than in comparison to the 1980’s.

Seasons are an important consideration in the capelin fishery since there is a relatively small window of opportunity to harvest capelin, especially for the roe-bearing market. There are a number of factors DFO takes into consideration when establishing the season for the capelin fishery, including:

Season dates are regularly discussed in detail as part of the industry consultation process and recommendations are noted during the advisory meeting on all management measures. 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.

An industry monitoring committee process is used for the fixed and mobile gear fleets. The Committee organizes calls during the season and invites participation from the FFAW, processors, fleet representatives for fixed and mobile gear, DFO Resource Management, area statistics officers and Conservation and Protection. The industry monitoring committee was established in each quota area to conduct sampling and to recommend opening dates based on sampling results, i.e. percentage of females, size and roe content, the percentage of red feed and distribution of capelin in a quota area. Fish harvesters may request capelin test permits from DFO which provide them with an opportunity to sample capelin.

The season for each gear sector and area will remain open provided there are commercial quantities available and there is quota remaining to be harvested. Quotas will be monitored and closures will be based on reported landings and projected catch. The fishery may close if there is no fishing activity.

Due to the rate at which harvesting can occur, closure times may be specified in conjunction with the announcement of fishery openings in order to limit the potential for significant quota over-runs. If there is evidence of dumping or wastage at sea, catches may be adjusted upward to reflect the estimated amounts and the fishery may be closed.

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. Opening and closing dates for specific areas and gear types are determined by DFO Area staff in consultation with industry.

7.3 Control and monitoring of removals

In Newfoundland and Labrador Region, all licenced capelin fish harvesters operating vessels greater than or equal to 40 feet length overall, and all purse seine operators regardless of vessel length must, as a condition of licence, provide detailed logbook records of catch and fishing activity, and may be required intermittently throughout the fishery to carry an industry-funded at-sea observer at DFO’s request. Electronic vessel monitoring is required for all mobile and fixed gear tuck seine vessels.

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), 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.

Having met the conditions of sections 73(2) to (6.1) of SARA for White Shark, licence holders are permitted to carry out commercial fishing activities authorized under the Fisheries Act that may incidentally kill, harm, harass, or capture this species.

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 2+3 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 Individual Quota (IQ) regimes

In 2+3, portions of White Bay and Notre Dame Bay have IQ fisheries. IQ licences are issued to harvesters residing in home ports within the IQ areas. The main elements of any IQ regime for consideration include:

7.7 Habitat protection measures

Due to the low impact of the capelin fishery on habitat in 2+3, no specific habitat protection measures have been identified.

7.8 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 logbooks. Information that should be in your logbook includes location, date, time, sets, gear type, weight of fish caught and by-catch.

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.

7.9 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.

Mobile and fixed gear fleets can share excess capelin with their same gear type – i.e. purse seine can share excess capelin with purse seine and fixed gear trap or tuck seine can share excess with either tuck seine and/or trap net.

Fixed gear capelin sharing in Bonavista Bay and Trinity Bay has further constraints, at the request of Industry, sharing excess capelin is permitted between the same fixed gear type but not between both fixed gear types i.e. trap with trap and tuck seine with tuck seine.

Note that the practice of barging (or supplying one or more inactive participants with catch) is not permitted in this fishery [see section 4.8].

7.10 Dockside monitoring program

Dockside monitoring is a mechanism to accurately capture the amount of fish being landed to apply against the assigned quotas. It is a management tool used to prevent overruns and with quota reconciliation, it is a vital management tool to ensure accurate accounting.

In CFAs 1-11 (Divisions 2+3), there is a 100% Dockside monitoring requirement. It is a mandatory requirement for all commercial licence holders to have all capelin catches monitored at dockside. The cost for this monitoring is the responsibility of the fishing industry. Capelin that is landed by non-commercial harvesters but is caught for personal use or recreational purposes is not subject to dockside monitoring.

Fish can only be offloaded in the presence of an individual who is a certified dockside observer. Specific procedures for the monitoring of catch weights at dockside have been developed through consultation with industry and Dockside Monitoring Program (DMP) companies. DFO’s accepted method of verification of landings at dockside is a direct weigh-out using certified weight scales.

In 2008, a water deduction of 3% for capelin was adopted following negotiations with industry and subsequent testing. DFO continues to recognize 3% as the accepted water tolerance for weighing of capelin.

7.11 By-catch and interaction concerns

One notable concern is by-catch of and interaction with salmon and cod in pelagic fisheries including capelin. This issue has been discussed with industry and measures were taken to minimize the potential for salmon by-catch in the commercial fishery:

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

7.12 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.

7.13 Sub-division of fixed gear quota

The current management regime allows fully competitive gear quotas to be applied over geographically large management areas. As a result, fish harvesters in one sector of a quota area may be advantaged by the early arrival of harvestable capelin and therefore have an opportunity to land a greater share of the quota. Conversely, fish harvesters in other locations of the quota area may not see harvestable capelin until later in the season and possibly not until after the entire quota has been taken and the commercial fishery closed.

Proponents of management area sub-divisions argue that this approach promotes a more equitable harvesting opportunity for all licence holders in those cases where there is no industry consensus to implement Individual Quotas. Fixed gear area sub-divisions under the current management plan are listed in [Appendix 5].

7.14 Modified bar seines

Modified bar seines, or tuck seines as they are more commonly known, are bar seines fitted with rings that allow the bottom and sides of the seine to be brought or hauled together. In recent years, the use of these seines has been authorized in the fixed gear herring, capelin and mackerel fishery in 2+3 based on consultations with the appropriate advisory committee.

The maximum tuck seine length allowed in the capelin fishery is 80 fathoms. Fixed gear capelin fish harvesters are authorized by way of licence conditions to use modified bar seines during the 2019 season.

7.15 Trip limits

In 1990, at the request of industry, a 22,680 kg (50,000 pound) trip limit was implemented in the purse seine fishery in 2J3KL and 3Ps. This measure was introduced as a measure to slow the rate of harvesting and provide equitable harvesting opportunities for small capacity seiners. In 2005, in consultation with industry, trip limits were discontinued for the purse seine fleet in 2J3KL and 3Ps and replaced with a daily limit of 31,780 kg (70,000 lbs).

For the purse seine fleet in 2021, a daily limit is set at 22,690 kg (50,000 lbs) with a seasonal cap of 190,680 kgs (420,000 lbs). These management measures for the capelin fishery in 2J3KL and 3Ps will continue in order to slow the harvest rate and improve quota monitoring. These measures should improve the quality and value of fish landed, while allowing for maximum utilization of available harvest.

For fixed gear in all bays in 2021, a 15,890 kgs (35,000 lbs) daily limit applies.

8.0 Shared stewardship arrangements

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.

9.0 Compliance plan

9.1 Conservation and Protection program description

The deployment of Conversation and Protection (C&P) resources in the Newfoundland and Labrador capelin fishery is conducted in conjunction with the 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 area, detachment and regional 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 occurrences of significant non-compliance emerge.

9.2 Compliance program delivery

The Conservation and Protection program promotes and maintains compliance with legislation, regulations and management measures. The program is delivered through a balanced regulatory management and enforcement approach, including:

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 composed 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.

Notice of closure will be provided on very short notice in some instances and closures will be strictly enforced by all available patrol vessels. Capelin will not be permitted to be brought on board a vessel after the time of closure. Air surveillance will be arranged as available and where appropriate.

C&P reviews quota monitoring reports to ensure individual quotas are not exceeded. Infractions involving exceeding the daily limits may not be identified until after the closure of the fishery due to other priorities during the fishery.

C&P supplies information to NFIS on a regular basis. This information is documented and analyzed to strategically direct efforts towards combatting illegal activity in the capelin fishery.

Compliance performance

DFO 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.

In the past five years, C&P has averaged approximately 4,149 hours annually of monitoring, control and surveillance activities in the 2+3 capelin fishery. [see Appendix 8]

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 motivated by financial gain persist through various complex and well-coordinated means in hiding illegal activities which put Canada’s aquatic resources at risk.

Detailed analysis of license holders and processing companies will be completed using:

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

Current compliance issues

The focus of C&P efforts for the duration of this IFMP is on the following areas:

Special attention will be given to inspecting tuck seines (including pre-season inspections), barging and quota monitoring, as well as by-catch of salmon and enforcing closures.

9.3 Compliance strategy

C&P has developed an operational plan which outlines monitoring and compliance activities that will be carried out by C&P personnel adjacent to capelin management areas. The plan will provide guidance for C&P, promote effective monitoring of the fishery, and enable C&P personnel to effectively maintain compliance with management measures governing this fishery.

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

10.0 Performance review

A review of the short-term and long-term objectives during the annual planning cycle is an integral part of reviewing 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 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 these 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 1] identifies the specific strategies that are used to achieve fisheries management objectives.

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
  • Implement measures that discourage illegal practices
  • Licence holders shall only fish in the area(s) and with the type and quantity of gear permitted
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
  • The accurate completion of logbooks
  • Reliable dockside monitoring program
  • Adequate level of spatial and temporal at-sea observer coverage
  • 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 arrangement
  • 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.

11.0 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.

number of individuals in a stock or a population
Age Composition:
proportion of individuals of different ages in a stock or in the catches

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

total weight of all individuals in a stock or a population

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

the unintentional catch of one species when the target is another species
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
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

fishing gear: netting with weights on the bottom and floats at the top used to catch fish. Gillnets can be set at different depths and are anchored to the seabed


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

quantity of a species caught and landed
Maximum Sustainable Yield:

largest average catch that can continuously be taken from a stock

Mesh Size:
size of the mesh of a net. Different fisheries have different minimum mesh size regulations
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

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

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

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.
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
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.
sexually mature individual
Spawning Stock:

sexually mature individuals in a 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
metric tonne, 1000kg or 2204.6 lbs
the verification by an observer of the weight of fish landed
Vessel Size:
length overall
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.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) research documents and associated reports are available on the NAFO website.

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: Membership of 2+3 capelin advisory committee

Name - Organization

Appendix 4: Capelin fishing areas around NL

Map of capelin fishing areas around NL

Appendix 5: Capelin quota reports for 2018-2020

* 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: totals and sub-totals reflect actual amounts landed

NAFO Quota definition 2018 2019 2020
Quota Catch Quota Catch Quota Catch
2J Labrador - Fixed Gear < 65' 78 0 90 0 77 0
Sub-Total 78 0 90 0 77 0
3K White Bay - Mobile Gear < 65' 780 527 897 331 762 623
Notre Dame Bay - Mobile Gear < 65' 780 1,690 897 1,322 762 921
Cape Bauld to Fishott Island - Fixed Gear < 65' 502 * 577 * 490 0
Fishott Island to Cape Fox - Fixed Gear < 65' 169 95 194 0 165 0
Cape Fox to Hampton, Inclusive - Fixed Gear < 65' 663 1,413 762 * 648 729
Bottom of White Bay to Cape St. John - Fixed Gear < 65' 993 1,077 1,142 1,315 971 *
Cape St. John to North Head - Fixed Gear < 65' 871 1,490 1,002 1,823 852 443
North Head to Dog Bay Point - Fixed Gear < 65' 1,804 2,583 2,075 1,832 1,764 1,031
Dog Bay Point to Cape Freels - Fixed Gear <65' 406 193 467 151 397 *
 Sub-Total 6,968 9,069 8,013 6,846 6,811 4,394
3L Bonavista Bay - Mobile Gear < 65' 741 405 852 1,241 724 1,319
Trinity Bay - Mobile Gear < 65' 973 717 1,117 1,286 950 1,657
Conception Bay - Mobile Gear < 65' 1,852 2,821 2,129 2,018 1,810 1,468
St. Mary's Bay Mobile < 65' 874 0 1,005 798 854 0
Bonavista Bay - Fixed Gear < 65' 1,298 1,857 1,493 2,686 1,269 2,180
Trinity Bay - Fixed Gear < 65' 2,335 3,090 2,685 2,910 2,282 2,604
Conception Bay - Fixed Gear < 65' 1,930 1,882 2,219 2,314 1,886 1,920
Cape St. Francis to Long Point - Fixed Gear < 65' 312 0 358 0 304 0
Long Point to Cape Neddick - Fixed Gear < 65' 208 0 239 * 203 0
Cape Neddick to Cape Pine - Fixed Gear < 65’ 60 0 69 0 59 0
Cape Neddick to Cape Pine – Competitive Fixed Gear < 65’ 617 0 709 213 603 *
St. Mary's Bay Fixed Gear < 65' 206 0 299 89 254 0
Sub-Total 11,460 10,772 13,174 13,559 11,198 11,715
3Ps Placentia Bay Mobile Gear 135 0 155 0 132 0
Fortune Bay and West Mobile Gear 16 0 18 0 16 0
Placentia Bay Fixed Gear 905 0 1,041 0 885 0
Fortune Bay and West 265 0 305 0 258 0
Sub-Total 1,321 0 1,519 0 1,291 0
Total 19,827 19,841 22,796 20,405 19,377 16,109

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 the seaworthiness of the vessel, vessel stability, having the required safety equipment in good working order, crew training, and knowledge of current and forecasted weather conditions.

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 onboard 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 the hazards associated with the marine environment, the prevention of shipboard incidents (including fires), raising and reacting to alarms, fire and abandonment situations, and the skills necessary for survival and rescue.

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: cold shock, swimming failure, hypothermia and post-rescue collapse. 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: Allocations by area, gear type and fleet for 2+3

NAFO Fleet Quota area 2020 quota
2J Fixed gear Labrador 58
Total 2J 58
3K Mobile gear White Bay 572
Notre Dame Bay 572
Fixed gear Cape Bauld to Fishott Island 367
Fishott Island to Cape Fox 123
Cape Fox to Hampton, Inclusive 486
Bottom of White Bay to Cape St. John - IQ 728
Cape St. John to North Head - IQ 639
North Head to Dog Bay Point 1,323
Dog Bay Point to Cape Freels 298
Total 3K 5,108
3L Mobile gear Bonavista Bay 543
Trinity Bay 713
Conception Bay 1,357
Southern Shore 0
St. Mary's Bay 641
Fixed gear Bonavista Bay 952
Trinity Bay 1,712
Conception Bay 1,415
Cape St. Francis to Long Point - IQ 228
Long Point to Cape Neddick - IQ 151
Cape Neddick to Cape Pine - IQ 44
Cape Neddick to Cape Pine - Competitive 452
St. Mary's Bay 191
Total 3L 8,399
3Ps Mobile gear Placentia Bay 99
Fortune Bay and West 12
Fixed gear Placentia Bay 664
Fortune Bay and West 193
Total 3Ps 968
Total capelin 14,533

Appendix 8: C&P enforcement data for 2+3 capelin

2J3KLPs Capelin Enforcement Hours from 2016-2020
Source: Conservation & Protection
Year Fishery officer patrol hours Fishery officer hours total work effort
2016 625 2,146
2017 597 3,305
2018 863 3,774
2019 759 3,284
2020 1,089 3,788
2J3KLPs Capelin Fishery Checks from 2016-2020
Source: Conservation & Protection
Year Vessels checked Persons checked Gear checks Sites checked
2016 297 52 81 31
2017 252 66 53 106
2018 498 28 175 55
2019 192 50 27 57
2020 310 143 10 94
2J3KLPs Capelin Departmental Violation System (DVS) Data from 2016-2020
Source: Conservation & Protection
Year Occurrences Charges laid Warnings issued Charges pending
2016 119 32 44 0
2017 142 34 80 4
2018 83 36 24 3
2019 126 10 38 5
2020 121 12 42 1

Appendix 9: Departmental contacts

DFO-NL Regional Headquarters
P.O. Box 5667, St. John’s, NL A1C 5X1

Erin Dunne
Senior Resource Manager, Pelagics
(709) 772-4680

Kelly Dooley
A/Resource Manager, Pelagics and Shellfish
(709) 772-4495

Kerry Bungay
Chief, Conservation & Protection
(709) 772-0468

Frank Corbett
Policy Analyst
(709) 772-6935

Fran Mowbray
Aquatic Fisheries Biologist
(709) 772-4295

Hannah Murphy
Research Biologist
(709) 330-8036

DFO-NL Area Offices – Resource Management

David Small
Area Chief (3KL)
Grand Falls-Windsor
(709) 292-5167

Mark Simms
Area Chief (2J)
Happy Valley–Goose Bay
(709) 896-6157

Laurie Hawkins
Area Chief (3P, 4R)
Corner Brook
(709) 637-4310

DFO-NL Area Offices – Conservation & Protection

Chad Ward
Area Chief (3KLPs)
St. John’s
(709) 772-5857

Brent Watkins
Area Chief (2GHJ, 3K, 4R3Pn)
Corner Brook
(709) 637-4334

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