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Hopes pinned to new research survey

The decision by the Minister of Fisheries to follow the Marine Research Institute’s advice on an acceptable capelin TAC for the coming season means that the quota will be 57,000 tonnes. Of this, only 12,100 tonnes will go to Icelandic vessels. Taking exchanges between species into account, just 11,500 tonnes of capelin will be left for the Icelandic pelagic fleet this season.

‘If larger amounts of capelin are not mesured and the quota is not increased, this means that HB Grandi’s vessels will have only around 2000 tonnes to catch,’ said HB Grandi CEO Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson. He and many others are pinning their hopes on more capelin being found, and interested parties have been having meetings with the Marine Research Institute’s specialists over a possible new survey next week. The purpose of this would be to chart the distribution of capelin north and north-west of Iceland. The opinion is that a survey now would give a clearer picture of the situation, as sea ice hampered the search for capelin on part of the area the recent survey covered.

Apart from research vessels Árni Friðriksson and Bjarni Sæmundsson, no Icelandic pelagic vessel took part in the survey that lasted from the 11th to the 20th of January. Greenlandic vessel Polar Amaroq was brought in for this.

The Marine Research Institute’s web page states the following:

‘The survey extended from the continental shelf and the edge of the continental shelf from the Denmark Strait, eastwards along the north coast and as far as the northern part of the Eastfjords. Two measurement surveys were made on the stock. The first was from 12th to 15th of January and capelin were found from the southern part of the Westfjords northwards and east as far as the Kolbeinsey Ridge. There were no indications of mature capelin further east. As weather conditions were bad when the survey measurements were complete, the vessels waited in Siglufjörður for it to improve. The second survey was from the 17th to the 20th of January on the area from the Kolbeinsey Ridge and west of there. The weather was acceptable but sea ice had covered part of the survey area during the second survey.

Approximately 398,000 tonnes of mature capelin were identified in the first survey and margins for error were put at 0.2. The second survey measured 493,000 tonnes with a margin for error of 0.23. The mean of these two surveys gives an estimated figure of 446,000 tonnes as the stock of mature capelin.

The catch rule in effect since the spring of 2015 is based on leaving 150,000 tonnes of the stock, with a 95% likelihood, for spawning. This takes into account measurement error, the growth and mortality rates of capelin, as well as predation on capelin by cod, haddock ad saithe. In accordance with the stated catch rule, the TAC for the 2016-17 season is 57,000 tonnes.’