Dismal season

Barbara
Barbara Dean-Simmons
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Inshore caplin fishery marked by low catches, small fish

They were small, and they were late. And some were wondering if the main caplin stock would even show up inshore.

The fishery opened in mid-July for purse seiners, longliners that fish deeper waters, and July 27 for inshore fishers using fixed gear, i.e. traps and bar seines. It closed Thursday.

- File photo

Clarenville -

They were small, and they were late. And some were wondering if the main caplin stock would even show up inshore.

The fishery opened in mid-July for purse seiners, longliners that fish deeper waters, and July 27 for inshore fishers using fixed gear, i.e. traps and bar seines. It closed Thursday.

The purse seiners in Trinity Bay have taken their quota.

However, the inshore fishers were still fishing right up to the deadline.

And it was slow going.

Normally, when the caplin make their annual run to the inshore grounds, the fishery lasts no more than a few days, with boats landing two or three times a day.

This year, fishers were lucky to get one load a day.

"The caplin's not coming to shore where the traps are," Bill Broderick, inshore director with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), said before the season closed.

He's not convinced, though, that is a sign the stock is in trouble.

"I don't think the problem is with the stock. I think the problem is that the caplin are in deep water," Broderick said.

He pointed out purse seiners didn't have problems getting their quota.

His theory is that water temperatures are not ideal for the caplin to move to shore.

"Caplin are probably the most temperature-sensitive fish that's in the water. This year it appears there's layers of water that the caplin got to come through, that it couldn't - it won't - go through."

Chris Hendry, who works in the pelagics division of resource management with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), said department scientists are also following that theory.

"Caplin prefer, for spawning conditions, six to eight degrees (Celsius) and the water temperatures around Newfoundland have been warmer than that this year. Even in deeper waters it's warmer as well.

"As a result, the caplin are staying a bit further offshore, likely because they're waiting for cooler water temperatures for optimal spawning conditions."

Because of the warmer water temperatures, Broderick didn't think the area would have a main stock this year.

George Saunders, who fished out of Hickman's Harbour this year, was thinking fishermen had a chance of getting the big catch.

His theory was based on experience, but his faith in the full moon Aug. 5 went unrealized.

He did agree the change in water temperature had a big impact.

"There's something gone wrong with the water temperature. Something's changed."

Fishing factors

While some caplin made it to the inshore, they were not the kind of caplin that fetch a good price.

The fish were small.

In the catches landed at Hickman's Harbour as July wound down, it took 65 to 70 caplin to make up one kilo.

The main market for caplin is in Japan, and Japanese buyers prefer a catch that averages 40 to 50 caplin per kilo.

Edgar Simmons, owner of Golden Shell Fisheries in Hickman's Harbour, remained hopeful about the season, but he was worried about the low catches and small fish.

"I know the caplin's going to come. It's just behind. But the caplin we pack now, we can't sell. It's too small."

It left some wondering whether DFO erred in deciding to open the inshore fishery when it did.

Hendry explained the process of opening involves fishermen as well as DFO field staff.

"We also do a test fishery for caplin. We issue test permits to fishers in different parts of the island, allowing them to go out with some gear to take small catches."

Those catches are sampled, to gather information on the percentage of females in the catch, amount of red feed and other info, to determine whether opening the fishery was warranted.

"All those pieces of the puzzle help us, as well as the FFAW and the fishers' committees, determine if it's a good time to open a fishery," Hendry said.

He added DFO heard from Trinity Bay and beyond that the caplin were late.

"A lot of the concern, as well, is that a lot of the caplin that's being landed is small."

This hit hard the fishermen who hoped the caplin fishery would boost their income in a year where the price of crab and shrimp has been low.

"It was the one fishery that people were hoping to make a dollar at this year," said Broderick.

"The price was down, and now the stocks are down. It's just another blow to an already bad year."

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Allied Workers, Golden Shell Fisheries

Geographic location: Trinity Bay, Clarenville, Hickman Newfoundland Japan

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Recent comments

  • b
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    It is nothing less than astonishing that there still are ANY caplin left.

    This is a fishery predicated upon stupidity, entire schools of fish are caught in order to harvest the roe, which Asians apparantly have a hunger for.

    Doesn't anybody see the problem with decimating all those fish before they can have an opportunity to release their eggs to be fertilized, and to replenish the species?

    This is as wastefull as catching sharks for the sole purpose of hacking off the fins for soup, again to satiate the Asian appetite.

  • Stan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    yeah but enough shark fin soup will grant you immortality. and give you pearly white teeth!

  • Willaim
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Anyone can see we are changing the World we live in. From heat waves, warmer water temps., more violent weather and lower water supplies. It all adds up. We can't keep taking from the earth without serious issues. We are not moving to a greener way of life fast enough. The future is not bright.

  • b
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    It is nothing less than astonishing that there still are ANY caplin left.

    This is a fishery predicated upon stupidity, entire schools of fish are caught in order to harvest the roe, which Asians apparantly have a hunger for.

    Doesn't anybody see the problem with decimating all those fish before they can have an opportunity to release their eggs to be fertilized, and to replenish the species?

    This is as wastefull as catching sharks for the sole purpose of hacking off the fins for soup, again to satiate the Asian appetite.

  • Stan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    yeah but enough shark fin soup will grant you immortality. and give you pearly white teeth!

  • Willaim
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Anyone can see we are changing the World we live in. From heat waves, warmer water temps., more violent weather and lower water supplies. It all adds up. We can't keep taking from the earth without serious issues. We are not moving to a greener way of life fast enough. The future is not bright.