Scientists explaining capelin fishery breakdown

December 15, 2009 09:07

PINRO polar fishery research institute has given potential reasons behind the breakdown of the autumn capelin fishery, reports ( with reference to the institute.

According to PINRO's deputy director Yuri Lepesevich, Murmansk vessels decided not to go to the capelin grounds this autumn due to a number of reasons. The fishermen feared repetition of the situation of February 2009 when the vessels only went to the grounds and has no one to show them large concentrations of capelin. More specifically, Vilnus research vessel entered the fishing area only on 25 February 2009 versus to 2 February 2009 under the schedule. Three weeks the fishermen were working without the online information. Due to this reason the estimated catch gap amounted to ca.15,000-20,000 tonnes. Out of the nation's quota of 157,000 tonnes of capelin (including the research quota) the fishermen managed to harvest only 73,000 tonnes (less than one half of the quota).

The second reason which could have influenced the catch rates was of biological nature, namely extremely strong destruction of capelin by traditional Barents Sea predators - cod and haddock. Due to that reason the capelin stock, contrary to the scientists' expectations, failed to increase, but even decreased on last year.

Finally, the fishermen did not see any sense targeting the species as the strongest concentrations of capelin were observed in the Norwegian EEZ. The Norwegians have set a conditional border at the 74th degree North banning the fishery operations to the north of it. To the south of the border the fishery has been allowed within the approved quota. However capelin was practically absent in that area. According to the seasonal peculiarities of its distribution, up to the very end of the year main commercial concentrations will be found much more to the north. In early December 2009 only weak schools with large content of small undersized fish remained on the grounds where the fishery was possible. According to the scientific estimates, the fishermen will most probably return from there without a profit-bringing harvest.

In the coming year 2010 PINRO scientists in cooperation with their colleagues from Bergen are planning to collect new data on capelin distribution. By the next session of Mixed Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission they are to work out recommendations on the possibility to shift the border for allowed fishery further to the north. However, as the 39th session of the Commission will take place only in autumn 2010, if confirmed the scientific recommendations will turn into amendments to fishery regulations in 2011 at the earliest.

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