Habitat and Biology
Depth zone: Shelf (50 m - 200 m). Vertical distribution: Pelagic.
Capelin is a short-lived species that dies after spawning (aged 3–4). The SSB is comprised of only one or two age groups and is therefore highly dependent on recruitment. Before the spawning migration starts, adult capelin are mostly found in Arctic seawater where the temperature is usually lower than 3°C. Juveniles can be found on the Icelandic continental shelf.Environmental influence on the stock
In the years 2002–2005 and 2007–2009 it is likely that the juveniles did not occupy the conventional areas on the Icelandic continental shelf. In this period, the quarterly monitoring of environmental conditions of Icelandic waters shows a rise in sea temperatures north and east of Iceland, which probably also reaches farther north and northwest. A northward shift in the distribution may have affected the productivity of the Icelandic shelf system.
Jurisdictional distribution: Shared between nations
Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Sub-Regional
Ecoregion: Iceland and East Greenland.
Considered a single stock: Yes
The fishery in recent years has largely been confined to the period January–March which coincides with the last 3 months of the capelin lifespan. In 2011 a summer fishery took place, for the first time since 2004.
Effects of the fisheries on the ecosystem
|Catch distribution ||Total landings (2011/12) = 747 kt (75% purse-seine, 25% pelagic trawl). Discards are negligible. |
Capelin is an important forage fish and declines in stock may be expected to have implications on the productivity of their predators.
ICES advises on the basis of precautionary considerations that there should be no fishery until new information on stock size becomes available that proves SSB to be above the escapement threshold.
Overall Assessment Results
|Figure 184.108.40.206 Capelin in Subareas V and XIV and Division IIa west of 5°W (Iceland–East Greenland–Jan Mayen area). Landings and assessment results (weights in thousand tonnes). Acoustic index of immature capelin at ages 1 and 2 (numbers in billions) from autumn surveys. |
Assessment ModelQuality consideration
Searching time in the scientific survey varies depending on initial estimates, with longer survey time when estimates are low. This may result in a biased acoustic assessment of stock size. Natural mortality used in the projection model is lower than the estimates from consumption by cod.Scientific basis
|Assessment type ||Biomass estimate based on acoustic surveys. VPA regression-type forecast. |
|Input data ||Two acoustic surveys (juvenile and adult) and catch-at-age information. |
|Discards and bycatch ||Not included in the assessment – considered to be negligible. |
|Indicators ||None. |
|Other information ||The assessment was benchmarked at WKSHORT 2009 (ICES, 2009). WKSHORT was unable to approve the assessment of the Icelandic capelin stock. The workshop recommended further work, which is ongoing. |
|Working group report ||NWWG |
Management unit: YesManagement plans
A management plan has been agreed between Iceland, Greenland, and Norway, which aims at a spawning-stock biomass at minimum 400 000 t by the end of the fishing season.
ICES has not evaluated the management plan.
Biological State and Trend
|Figure 220.127.116.11 |
It is estimated that 418 000 t was left for spawning in spring 2012, which is just above the management target. In autumn 2011, the annual survey on young capelin was not conducted due to a strike. Two surveys, aimed at young capelin, conducted in November 2011 and February 2012, only covered part of the potential distribution area. The index of abundance from those surveys of young capelin was very low.
Source of information
The above excerpts are from the first two pages of the ICES advice, the supporting information to this advice can be read in full at the following reference:
ICES. Capelin in Subareas V and XIV and Division IIa west of 5°W (Iceland–East Greenland–Jan Mayen area). Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2012. ICES Advice, June 2012. http://www.ices.dk/committe/acom/comwork/report/2012/2012/cap-icel.pdf