The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland has set its new advice for capelin catch quotas for the 2021/22 season at 904,200 tonnes following this autumn’s research expeditions. This is close to sevenfold last year’s quota and a dramatic shift from 2019 and 2020 when no capelin quota was issued at all. The capelin catch will have a positive impact on the economy, states Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson.
The MFRI’s advice is based on the autumn’s acoustic measurements but the final catch quota will be issued early in 2022, following further research expeditions in January-February. Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson told 200 Mílur that the news creates opportunities for fishing towns around the country and that it’s a positive for Iceland’s economy, which is still recovering from the effects of the global pandemic. “This increase in capelin quota would mean that we see an increase in export revenue and more economic growth next year than expected,” Bjarni stated.
According to the most recent acoustic survey, the capelin’s spawning stock biomass is estimated at 1,833,000 tonnes. The harvest control rule (HCR) aims at leaving at least 150,000 tonnes of mature capelin at the time of spawning in March with a 95% probability. The index of immature capelin (age 1 and 2) was the third-highest since 1980.
While the autumn’s research expeditions were extensive, weather delays caused less coverage in the southwestern parts of the survey area where immature capelin dominated. There was also limited coverage north of Iceland. The estimate of mature capelin has a higher uncertainty than before but acoustic measurements this winter might clarify this issue.
The total landings of the 2020/2021 fishing year amounted to about 128 600 tonnes, which is among the lowest catches since 1980. No capelin was caught in Icelandic waters during summer and autumn 2020. The 2021 winter fishery took place from January until March. Despite relatively low catch, last year’s export value of capelin amounted to 20 billion ISK [$154,500,000, €133,140,000]. If it fetches similar prices this year, the export value could be seven times as much.