DFO re­ceives crit­i­cism for cut­ting capelin quota

FFAW direc­tor and har­vesters say more capelin this year

Northern Pen - - Front page - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS

With higher num­bers of capelin in 2018, the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) is com­ing un­der fire for its de­ci­sion to cut the quota.

In June, the depart­ment an­nounced it was cut­ting the to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC) by 35 per cent to 19,823 tonnes in 2J3KLPs and 9,295 tonnes in 4RST.

The eastern side of the Great North­ern Penin­sula is in­cluded in 3K, while the west­ern side is in­cluded in 4R.

Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) direc­tor of in­shore sec­tor, Bill Brod­er­ick, says the union rec­om­mended to DFO not to make this cut.

“We saw ev­i­dence last year, from fish­ers on the wa­ter, that there was capelin in the south and it just didn’t go north for what­ever rea­son,” he said. “It didn’t come up to the North­ern Penin­sula like it did in other years.”

But, now, based on his con­ver­sa­tions with har­vesters, he be­lieves the capelin is back, in­clud­ing in the Canada Bay area on the Great North­ern Penin­sula.

Brod­er­ick says he’s on the phone ev­ery day, speak­ing with in­shore fish­er­per­sons and pro­cessers from Cape Bauld to Pla­cen­tia Bay. He’s hear­ing there is lots of good capelin, 60 to 70 per cent big­ger than last year’s prod­uct.

Un­like last year, he says the capelin came early and landed on the beaches as it tra­di­tion­ally does.

Brod­er­ick be­lieves last year was an anom­aly caused by colder wa­ter tem­per­a­tures in the north.

He crit­i­cizes DFO for mak­ing its de­ci­sion based on what he claims to be a sin­gle year of ev­i­dence.

“Sci­ence will tell our fish­er­men we shouldn’t re­act to one year’s event,” he said. “Well, they’re re­act­ing to what they tell us we shouldn’t re­act to.”

En­glee fish­er­men Larry Cull fishes in the Canada Bay area. He’s see­ing more capelin this year and also be­lieves cooler tem­per­a­tures was the is­sue last sea­son.

He’s less em­phatic in his crit­i­cism of DFO, but does not be­lieve the quota should have been cut.

He spoke to The North­ern Pen with the fixed gear sea­son set to close at 10 p.m. Aug. 2.

Cull es­ti­mates with two crews fish­ing aboard his boat, the Trin­ity Chal­lenger, they’ve caught about 400,000 pounds this year.

That’s a de­cent year. Ac­cord­ing to him, some days have been slower than oth­ers but be­lieves that some­times capelin is around and just doesn’t en­ter the traps.

Cull says he isn’t sure what goes into DFO’s sci­ence, but he too is hear­ing that capelin catches have been strong and healthy all over the is­land.

The North­ern Pen also re­ported last week of two har­vesters from Rod­dick­ton-Bide Arm who be­lieve capelin was look­ing strong in Canada Bay at the start of the sea­son.

A DFO spokesper­son pro­vided The North­ern Pen the fol­low­ing state­ment on its de­ci­sion to cut the TAC: “Capelin is a crit­i­cal species in the ma­rine ecosys­tem and our

man­age­ment de­ci­sion re­flects its im­por­tance. Af­ter con­sid­er­ing the re­cent sci­ence ad­vice and in con­sul­ta­tion with the har­vest­ing sec­tor, pro­cess­ing sec­tor, provin­cial gov­ern­ment and Nu­natuKavut Com­mu­nity Council, we re­duced the to­tal al­low­able catch to en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of the re­source along with bal­anc­ing so­cioe­co­nomic fac­tors.”


Han­nah Mur­phy, re­search sci­en­tist in the pelag­ics sec­tion, says the sci­en­tific ad­vice to DFO in March 2018 was to be cau­tious.

Their re­search de­ter­mined that capelin num­bers did not look good.

“Pe­lagic species can re­act quite quickly to their en­vi­ron­ment,” she ex­plained to The North­ern Pen. “It looks like what hap­pened this year is that en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions were bet­ter than we thought and they (capelin) did re­ally well. A lot more sur­vived than what we thought”

Mur­phy says pelag­ics can un­dergo “boom and bust” pop­u­la­tion dy­nam­ics. In other words, when en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions are good, pop­u­la­tions can grow. But when they’re bad, the pop­u­la­tion can drop quickly.

She says the sci­en­tists will meet with DFO again in March and for­mu­late their ad­vice based on the new in­for­ma­tion they’re gath­er­ing this year.

Ac­cord­ing to Mur­phy, un­like with cod, they cur­rently do not have a capelin as­sess­ment model.

How­ever, she says they’ve been work­ing on a fore­cast model for capelin to help try and un­der­stand the un­cer­tainty around num­bers from year-to-year.

“It’s al­ready been sub­mit­ted to a sci­en­tific jour­nal and we will be dis­cussing the stock as­sess­ment in March 2019,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to Mur­phy, the three most im­por­tant vari­ables they’ve found to help de­ter­mine capelin num­bers in­clude tim­ing of the ice re­treat, the num­ber of lar­vae they sam­ple and the con­di­tion of fish dur­ing adult­hood in the fall.

Sci­en­tists are hoping to use this new model in the fu­ture.


Un­like last year, capelin rolled in on the beaches in 2018.

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