Capelin Catch Quotas Increased Again Skip to content

Capelin Catch Quotas Increased Again

By Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir

first capelin in two years arriving in Eskifjörður
Photo: Sigurður Gísli Guðmundsson/ Síldarvinnslan.

The Iceland Freshwater and Marine Research Institute has suggested that capelin catch quotas be increased to 127,000 tonnes. This is their final advisory estimate, based on two extensive research expeditions they consider to cover all areas of spawning capelin. The highly valuable capelin fishing resumed recently after a two-year break.

Extensive research expeditions

During the two expeditions, the IFMRI estimated that the size of the capelin spawning stock around Iceland is 650,000 tonnes. Earlier expeditions indicated that there was less capelin in Icelandic waters, leading to a smaller catch quota being issued.

In the first expedition, three ships searched for capelin January 17-20 giving data for the area south of 65°N but bad weather and sea ice affected the search north of the country. On January 26-30, a total of eight ships covered the area off the Westfjords, as well as north and northeast of Iceland.

Together, these two expeditions covered the complete area where capelin spawns. This was not the case in the December and early January expeditions so the previous data gathered does not affect this final counsel.

Suggestions for catch quotas are based on that there’s a 95% chance that the spawning stock in March will be over 150,000 tonnes considering predation. According to the latest data, the total suggested catch quotas will be 127,300 tonnes in the winter of 2020/2021 and replaces earlier catch quota suggestions.

There’s always money in the capelin stand

This is great news for Iceland’s fishing industry as capelin is a valuable fish, according to the Landsbankinn economic analysis. In the years 2012-2018, its export value was second only to Iceland’s most valuable export, cod. Capelin fishing can affect Iceland’s economy greatly, so much so that when smaller capelin quotas than anticipated were issued, Landsbankinn lowered its GDP growth forecast for 2021 from 3.4 to 3.3 %. The largest part of the capelin catch is sold to Norway in the form of fishmeal, and second-largest to Japan, which buys a substantial amount of capelin roe.

First capelin in two years

For two years in a row, no capelin quotas were issued to protect the stock. This hit particularly hard in fishing towns outside the capital area, such as in Vestmannaeyjar islands off Iceland’s south coast. The town holds about a third of the country’s capelin quotas. Mayor Íris Róbertsdóttir told RÚV that she was pleased and happy that capelin fishing was back on the agenda. They would, of course, have preferred to have even larger catch quotas, but were happy that they could resume continuity for capelin markets and keep the trade open.

The first capelin caught after the two-year break was landed January 30 in Eskifjörður, when the Greenlandic ship Polar Amaroq brought 700 tonnes of frozen capelin. According to a notice from Síldarvinnslan seafood company, the capelin looked good. There were about 40 fish to the kilo and some krill.


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