Capelin Observers Network - Fishery

Have You Seen Capelin Spawning?
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Present in large numbers and easy to catch, capelin has been used as bait for cod and furbearing animals. It has also been used as fertilizer for crops. However, this small fish is a delicacy, both dried and salted and eaten fresh in season. It has even saved populations from starvation, particularly during the early settlement of Quebec’s North Shore region.

In the past, residents along the St. Lawrence held feasts during the spawning period. Municipalities with capelin spawning beaches would organize festivals celebrating this small fish. Still today, capelin fishing is a unique traditional activity accessible to everyone. The fish are caught with dip nets or simply by hand when abundant.

Capelin fishing with landing net

Recreational capelin fishing in Quebec is not considered a threat to the species since the quantities harvested are small relative to its abundance. There is also a commercial capelin fishery. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the fishery occurs primarily on the coasts of Newfoundland. The main types of fishing gear used are purse seines, traps and weirs. The most lucrative products from this fishery are mature females and their eggs, which are sold to the Japanese sushi market. Catches not otherwise sold are used in the production of fishmeal, which is used as feed for fish and livestock, and therapeutic fish oils. In Quebec, the commercial capelin fishery is carried out along the Lower North Shore and to a lesser extent in the St. Lawrence Estuary.