Likely Capelin Discovery Reported Southwest of Iceland

iceland fishing

Marine researchers have discovered what they believe to be a significant quantity of capelin southwest of the country, amid challenging weather conditions. Further investigations and sampling are planned to confirm the findings.

Challenging weather conditions

Vessels from the Marine & Freshwater Research Institute discovered yesterday what is believed to be a significant quantity of capelin southwest of Iceland. 

In an interview with RÚV this morning, Guðmundur J. Óskarsson, Head of the Pelagic Division at the Marine & Freshwater Research Institute, stated that the search for capelin was somewhat complicated by challenging weather conditions. Pelagic fishing vessels, fishing for blue whiting, were enlisted to assist with the search yesterday and found what is believed to be a considerable quantity of capelin.  

Two ships have since been directed to the site to conduct further measurements. “We cannot confirm that it is capelin; it could possibly be herring, but we believe it is most likely capelin,” Guðmundur stated, adding that a closer examination of the site was planned for today. 

Very little capelin detected

The Marine & Freshwater Research Institute reported on Monday, February 12, that very little capelin had been detected in February. This was the second capelin measurement of the year. As noted by RÚV, there have been significant fluctuations in capelin measurements in recent years: “We are continuously conducting research, but what is most difficult to understand is what is affecting the variability in the recruitment of the stock,” Guðmundur told RÚV this morning.

“We have to examine this more closely. The research vessel Bjarni Sæmundsson is conducting marine research to the east, but the crew will be called to this task now; we need to ascertain whether or not this is capelin and obtain samples,” Guðmundur concluded by saying.

One of the most important commercial stocks in Iceland

As noted in an article in Iceland Review in 2021, capelin is one of the most important commercial fish stocks in Iceland, accounting for around 13% of export earnings. “Only cod brings in more, and it bears pointing out that cod is also dependent on capelin, which may account for up to 40% of its total food,” the article notes.

Read More: Net Profit (On Capelin in Iceland)

In recent times, stocks of capelin in Icelandic waters have been volatile, which has made it difficult to predict or plan fishing seasons. The fish have a short life cycle, procreating only once before their ultimate demise, which makes the stock vulnerable to overfishing and changes in the marine environment.

Icelandic Fish Beer a Hit at Seafood Expo Global

A beer made with Icelandic capelin roe, or masago, was a hit at the Seafood Expo Global conference that took place in Barcelona, Spain April 25-27, mbl.is reports. Produced by Icelandic Asia, the beer is brewed with masago and shiso, a Japanese herb.

The beer was first introduced at the conference last year, but the shiso in this year’s batch is a new addition. “It was a hit last year and we decided to make a new version of it for this expo and it’s been a hit too,” stated Agnes Guðmundsdóttir, Icelandic Asia’s director of sales. The beer’s logo was designed by AI and the cans featured a QR code that drinkers could scan to win prizes and merchandise from Japan. Last year’s Masago Beer is pictured in the post below.

Masago is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, including sushi. The Masago Beer was specially brewed for the event and is not for sale elsewhere. Readers craving an Icelandic drink with a fishy ingredient can try Collab, a caffeinated soda with fish collagen that has become popular in Iceland in recent years.

Net Profit

In 2021, when a lower capelin quota was issued in Iceland than had been anticipated, Landsbankinn bank lowered its GDP growth forecast for the year from 3.4 to 3.3%. Capelin may be a little fish, but as a key food source for many other marine species, it makes a big impact on Iceland’s economy and ecology. Commercially, capelin is one of the most important fish stocks in Iceland, accounting for around 13% of export earnings. Only cod brings in more, and it bears pointing out that cod is also dependent on capelin, which may account for up to 40% of its total food. 

Stocks of capelin in Icelandic waters have been volatile, making it difficult to predict or plan fishing seasons. The fish have a short life cycle, procreating only once before their ultimate demise, which makes the stock vulnerable to overfishing and changes in the marine environment. In 2019 and 2020, in accordance with the recommendations of Iceland’s Marine Research Institute, no capelin quota was issued at all, while last year’s catch amounted to nearly 600,000 tonnes. In recent years, however, capelin catch has averaged around 350,000 tonnes annually. The bulk of the quota is caught during four weeks in spring.

Capelin is often described as the most ecologically important fish species in Icelandic waters. It is the main source of food for Atlantic cod (another commercially important species in Iceland), and is also a food source for whales, seals, squid, mackerel, and seabirds.

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Icelandic boats began fishing capelin in the late 1960s when herring stocks in Icelandic waters collapsed.

 

Net Profit

Capelin is a small forage fish belonging to the smelt family and is found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. It is silver in colour and usually measures between 15-18 cm long [6-7 in].

Golli. A Brim ship in Akranes, West Iceland

About 80% of capelin caught in Iceland is used to produce fishmeal and oil, while a small amount (less than 20%) is used to produce roe for human consumption. The roe, called masago, is yellow in colour and is popularly used in sushi. 

Net Profit

Icelandic fishing boats caught some 477,000 tonnes of capelin last season, the full quota issued. This included around 20,000 tonnes of roe. The total value of the catch is estimated at around ISK 42-45 billion [$305 million, €280 million].

Up until the early 80s, Icelanders sometimes caught over a million tonnes of capelin in a single season. 

Net Profit

Despite being common in Icelandic fishing nets, capelin is not normally sold in local stores. Hólmgeir Einarsson, a seafood store owner in Reykjavík, decided to stock some this year and has so far sold over 200 kilos [440 lbs]. He says the primary purchasers have been immigrants, who are familiar with the fish from abroad. Some Reykjavík restaurants are also discovering this important fish.

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Icelandic capelin migrate seasonally. In spring and summer, they go north of the Icelandic mainland to feed in the plankton-rich waters between Greenland, Iceland, and Jan Mayen.

Net Profit

Due to rising sea temperatures, capelin has moved further north in search of colder waters. Young capelin now tend to dwell near and under the sea ice around Greenland, making stock sizes difficult to assess.

Climate change and changes in the ocean’s temperature have a direct effect on capelin behaviour. It’s one of the most direct effects of climate change Icelanders can expect in the coming years.

Net Profit

Tubs of roe ready for export.

Brim
Venus
Akranes
loðnuhrogn

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Net Profit

The capelin season takes place in February and March. The window to catch roe-filled capelin before it spawns is even shorter, only around 20-25 days. In that time, a sailor on a capelin fishing boat can expect to earn an Icelandic worker’s annual salary. That is, if capelin catch quotas, and the weather, are favourable that year.

Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, restaurateur at Brút in the Reykjavík city centre, occasionally serves roe-filled capelin.

Icelandic Cod Stock Endangered by Warming Waters

capelin loðna fishing

Unprecedented changes to the waters surrounding Iceland may put the nation’s cod stock in danger, a professor in biological oceanography has told Fréttablaðið. A new era in our ocean biosphere is under way.

Warming waters, new patterns

Katherine Richardson is a professor in biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen and the leader of the ROCS (Queen Margrethe’s and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir´s Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Ocean, Climate, and Society).

Among the ROCS’ research projects is analysing core samples extracted from the ocean floor in Reykjanes by a vessel operated by Iceland’s Marine & Freshwater Research Institute (Hafró). The results of the research are being introduced at a conference in Reykholt, Fréttablaðið reports.

“We can expect changes to fish stocks around Iceland, a decrease in certain species, e.g. cod, which prefer colder waters, and an increase in species that prefer warmer waters, e.g. mackerel and sardines,” Katherine told Fréttablaðið.

New research shows that formerly unknown changes are occurring in the waters surrounding Iceland. Katherine emphasises, however, that it’s currently not possible to generalise regarding the effect of these changes on fish stocks in Iceland.

“We’re entering a new era when it comes to the ocean biosphere, including fisheries,” Katherine observed, adding that those who participate in the fishing industry need to be aware of these changes.

As reported by Fréttablaðið this summer, the cod quota will be lowered by 13% next year; Iceland’s Marine & Freshwater Research Institute has overestimated cod recruitment over the past few years.

More research required

Fréttablaðið also quotes Daði Már Kristófersson, professor of economics at the University of Iceland, who stated that there are plenty of unknowns when it comes to the ecosystem surrounding Iceland – and that it is surprising, given the stakes, that Icelanders have not investigated these ecosystems.

Research indicates that capelin – a cold-water fish and a key food for cod – propagation patterns are changing.

As noted in an article in the New York Times in 2019, ocean temperatures around Iceland have increased between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 20 years.

Capelin Quota Lowered to 218,000 Tonnes

capelin loðna fishing

In a recent report from the Maritime Research Institute, the advised capelin quota was lowered to 218,400 tonnes, significantly less than hoped-for projections of 400,000 tonnes.

The new recommendation replaces the previous, more optimistic, recommendation which was based on numbers of immature capelin from 2021.

Read more: Capelin Quota Increased by 50,000 Tonnes

Now, new data is available from the research ships Árni Friðriksson and Tarajoq, which took echo measurements of the capelin population between Iceland and Greenland between August 27 and September 29.

The total population was estimated to be 1.1 million tonnes, with a spawning stock of around 763,000 tonnes.

Some fishermen are nevertheless optimistic, as many years have been entirely without capelin. Of the past 13 years, 7 have seen no initial capelin quota issued.

Read more: Reduction of Capelin Quota May Be Necessary

Although the lowered quota has been a disappointment for fishermen, if favourable market prices prevail, the capelin catch could still net ISK 30-35 billion.

However, the quota is still subject to revision and will be updated after new figures are available in January and February of 2023.

In an interview with RÚV, Gunnþór Ingvason, director of the Neskaupstaður herring processing plant, stated that “the problem is this uncertainty. If the quota increase comes late in the season, then it’s very expensive to have put all the ships away for winter.”

 

Capelin Quota to Be Increased by 50,000 Tonnes

iceland fishing

Icelandic fishing companies are likely to be granted an additional quota of ca. 50,000 tonnes’ worth of capelin, Vísir reports. The announcement comes as the most valuable phase of capelin season, the processing of roe, commences.

Ministry to reallocate the Norwegian capelin quota

As Norwegians vessels were unable to use the full extent of their capelin allowance in Iceland – when their season on Icelandic waters concluded – the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries is expected to reallocate the remainder of the quota among Icelandic vessels, Vísir reports. As reported by Mbl.is, the authorities rejected Norway’s request for an extension in February.

This reallocation, which could comprise around 50,000 tonnes, could come into effect as early as today. If Icelandic vessels manage to fully utilise this additional quota, the value of the catch could be worth between two to three billion ISK (€14-21 million / $15-23 million).

The announcement comes as the most valuable phase of the capelin season, the processing of roe, commences. Roe-processing is expected to be in full swing around the country, as companies race against time to catch as much capelin as possible before they spawn.

As noted in Iceland Review last year, the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland set its new advice for capelin catch quotas at 904,200 tonnes for the 2021/22 season. This quota is nearly sevenfold of last year’s quota and a dramatic shift from 2019 and 2020 when no capelin quota was issued at all.

Reduction of Capelin Quota May Be Necessary

capelin loðna fishing

New measurements of capelin stocks from the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute (MFRI) suggest that it might be necessary to reduce capelin quotas for the ongoing season by around 100,000 tonnes. This year’s quota was set at 904,200 tonnes and has not been higher in decades. MFRI’s final decision is expected by mid-February.

In October 2021, the MFRI set a capelin catch quota for the 2021-2022 season at 904,000 tonnes following the autumn research expeditions. This quota was sevenfold that of the previous season’s quota, and a dramatic shift from 2019 and 2020, when no capelin catch quota was issued at all. The total landings of the 2020-2021 fishing year amounted to about 128,600 tonnes, among the lowest catches since 1980. Still, its export value amounted to 20 billion ISK [$154,500,000, €133,140,000].

Research vessels Árni Friðriksson and Bjarni Sæmundsson recently completed an expedition to assess the state of capelin stocks. The data collected suggest a total catch quota of 800,000 tonnes, which would be a 11% reduction from the previously issued quota. The recommendation is based on measurements taken off the Northeast, East, and Southeast coasts. Sea ice delayed measurements in the Westfjords region, which are expected to be done next week. A final quota recommendation will be issued after that expedition is complete.

Capelin fishing has gone well this season, with two ships breaking records for the largest ever catch in Iceland.

Largest Catch in Icelandic History – 3,400 Tonnes

Börkur ship fishing

Fishing vessel Börkur NK likely broke an Icelandic record when it landed 3,409 tonnes of capelin in Seyðisfjörður last week. The capelin had been caught over four days, and it took 18 hours to transfer it onto land. There are only two other vessels in the Icelandic fleet that could land a catch of similar size.

Fish processing company Síldarvinnslan hf. posted about the catch last week, saying that only Börkur’s sister ship Vilhelm Þorsteinsson EA, as well as Beitir NK, would have the capacity to land such a large catch (with Beitir having significantly less cargo space than the other two ships).

Eggert Ólafur Einarsson, factory manager of Síldvarvinnslan in Seyðisfjörður, says the capelin is high-grade. “This is quality material and the processing is going very well. There’s good fishing now and the processing is going very well,” Eggert stated, adding that the company was preparing to land from another vessel, Barði.

Capelin catch quotas issued by the Icelandic Marine and Freshwater Research Institute have fluctuated in recent years, with no quota at all being issued in the 2019-2020 season. Last year’s quota was issued late, but later increased several times after research expeditions detected more fish.

Hálfdan Hálfdanarson, who sat in the captain’s chair when Börkur headed out to sea once more, stated that the crew’s spirits were high. “Everyone’s in high spirits here on board, since we’re experiencing a real capelin season.”

MFRI Advises Greatly Increased Capelin Catch Quota for 2021-22

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.

Capelin catch in Iceladnic waters from 1980-2020
MFRI. The MFRI’s latest advice would allow Icelanders to catch close to seven times the amount of capelin caught in 2020/21

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.

Capelin Brings in ISK 16.4 Billion

loðna capelin fish

In the first 5 months of the year, Iceland exported around 26,000 tonnes of capelin products for ISK 16.4 billion [$132.4 million, €111.9 million]. After a two-year shortage of capelin, the price has risen and the average price per kilo has reached record highs.

Capelin is one of the most important fish stocks in Iceland, accounting for around 13% of export earnings: only cod brings in more. About 70% of capelin fished in Icelandic waters is sold to the Asian market, with Japan being the biggest buyer though sales to China are increasing.

Stocks of capelin have been volatile, making it difficult to predict or plan fishing seasons. Still, in recent years, most of the world’s capelin catch has been caught off the coast of Iceland. This year it took Icelandic capelin fishing vessels only one month to catch the allotted quota though it was raised several times.

Export value of the fish has risen even though export figures for the last season have not been finalised.