Illustration of Capelin

Capelin

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Harvest Method

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Smelt, smelt roe, masago

Mallotus villosus

Method

Wild

Purse seine, Trap net

Location

Iceland

Overall Rating

N/A / 5

Summary

Capelin are a small cold-water fish that are a major food source for a variety of other marine fish, mammals and seabirds. Capelin also support a small but important commercial fishery, mostly to supply roe to sushi restaurants.

Capelin are fast-growing, early-maturing, short-lived and have a high reproductive output. These characteristics make them inherently resilient to fishing pressure. Stock status of Capelin is not well-understood but population fluctuations are thought to be part of the natural cycle for this species. Capelin fisheries are well-managed, particularly in Iceland. Management techniques in Iceland are quite progressive. Monitoring and enforcement is considered to be strong.

Bycatch for this fishery is low. Iceland has implemented a no discard policy which has kept bycatch below 2%. Most of the gear used to harvest Capelin operate mid-water or near the ocean surface, which have a minimal impact on marine habitats. The removal of significant numbers of capelin may have an impact on marine food-web dynamics.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Smelt, smelt roe, masago

Mallotus villosus

Method

Wild

Purse seine

Location

Canada: Gulf of St. Lawrence (4RST), Canada: North Atlantic (NAFO 2J3KLPs)

Overall Rating

3.0 / 5

Summary

Capelin are small pelagic schooling finfish, which inhabit the North Atlantic. In Canada, they are primarily landed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the Scotian Shelf. Stocks in these two regions are fished using different gears and are managed and assessed by different governing bodies.

Capelin have a low inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure as they are short‐lived, have a high fecundity, and mature quickly. Capelin abundance data are not available and population surveys are not conducted for this species in the North Atlantic. No evidence exists to suggest these stocks are being overfished, and landings are below catch limits in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Despite a lack of biological parameter data, capelin fisheries in both regions are managed by separate Integrated Fisheries Management Plans, which frequently evaluate multiple aspects the fisheries, including ecological, socioeconomic and institutional components. These fisheries also have a proven track record of always following scientific advice from the internally peer‐reviewed scientific assessment arm: the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat.

Capelin fisheries in both the North Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence are only permitted to keep their targeted catch (i.e. capelin). Thus, all other by‐catch species are discarded. Some commonly caught by‐catch species (e.g. Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon) are of high concern as they are listed as threatened, endangered or of‐special‐concern.

Except during rare occurrences, purse seines do not contact the substrate. Consequently, this gear type does not have a significant impact on benthic habitats and ecosystems.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - ISF Iceland capelin

Variety

Capelin roe, smelt roe, massago

Mallotus villosus

Method

Wild

Midwater trawl, Pelagic trawl, Purse seine

Location

Iceland

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
ISF Iceland capelin

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Variety

Smelt, smelt roe, masago

Mallotus villosus

Method

Wild

Trap net, Tuck seine

Location

Canada: Gulf of St Lawrence (4RST), Canada: North Atlantic (2J3KLPs)

Overall Rating

2.4 - 2.6 / 5

Summary

Capelin are small pelagic schooling finfish, which inhabit the North Atlantic. In Canada, they are primarily landed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the Scotian Shelf. Stocks in these two regions are fished using different gears and are managed and assessed by different separate units.

Capelin have a low inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure as they are short‐lived, have a high fecundity, and mature quickly. Capelin abundance data are not available and population surveys are not conducted for this species in the North Atlantic. No evidence exists to suggest these stocks are being overfished, and landings are below catch limits in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Despite a lack of biological parameter data, capelin fisheries in both regions are managed by separate Integrated Fisheries Management Plans, which frequently evaluate multiple aspects the fisheries, including ecological, socioeconomic and institutional components. While by-catch mitigation strategies exist for each fleet, the tuck seine and trap net fisheries lack observer coverage and there is an overall lack of research into the impacts of these gears in terms of by-catch.

Capelin fisheries in both the North Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence are only permitted to keep their targeted catch (i.e. capelin). Thus, all other by‐catch species are discarded. Some commonly caught by‐catch species (e.g. Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon) are of high concern as they are listed as threatened, endangered or of‐special‐concern.

Seine nets rarely contact the seabottom. Trap net gear does contact the substrate, but it has been scientifically show that this gear only affects habitats of low complexity with minimal impact. There are mitigation measures (e.g. mesh size restrictions, season closures, etc.) in place to further reduce ecosystem by trap gear.

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