Moratorium on Capelin Fishing in Iceland Skip to content

Moratorium on Capelin Fishing in Iceland

Minister of Fisheries Einar K. Gudfinnsson has issued a moratorium on capelin fishing, which will take effect at noon today. The Iceland Marine Research Institute proposed the moratorium yesterday because of poor results from research expeditions.

“This is an immense shock for the entire society, the companies, the fishermen, fish processors and the communities that depend on capelin the most,” the minister told Morgunbladid. “But we had no other option because only a small number of capelin has been found.”

Since early January, the Marine Research Institute’s ships have only managed to locate between 200,000 to 270,000 tons of capelin and with continued fishing there would not be a large enough stock left to ensure sustainability. A school count of at least 400,000 capelin needs to exist for responsible fishing.

“We have no explanation for why the capelin isn’t reproducing. The numbers on young capelin the year before last indicated that we would see many more adult fish now,” said director of the pelagic division at the institute, Thorsteinn Sigurdsson.

Gudfinnsson said the Marine Research Institute will continue to look for capelin “so we won’t miss anything. The capelin is capricious, so maybe we’ll find more of it after all.”

This will likely be the worst capelin fishing season since 1982-83 when next to no capelin were caught. The export value of this season’s catch only amounts to ISK 1 billion (USD 15 million, EUR 10 million), one twentieth of its peak value in 2002 when the export of capelin returned ISK 20 billion (USD 297 million, EUR 201 million).

The capelin fishing moratorium means that the three largest capelin companies in Iceland will lose up to ISK 7 billion (USD 104 million, EUR 70 million).

Click here to read more about the search for capelin in Icelandic waters.

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