Labrador Indigenous group calls for halt to commercial capelin fishery

A group representing Inuit in southern Labrador says even taking a modest amount of capelin could hurt the stock and other species such as cod and shrimp.

NunatuKavut Community Council calls latest stock assessment 'alarming'

These boats were fishing for capelin in 2016 off Leading Tickles. A stock assessment done this year shows capelin numbers have declined. (Submitted by Ryan Peddle)

A group representing Inuit in southern Labrador is asking Fisheries and Oceans Canada to halt the commercial capelin fishery on the east coast.

"There is no more important species in the food chain. It must be protected," said the president of NunatuKavut, Todd Russell, on Tuesday.

Russell said the most recent stock assessment, which shows a 70 per cent decline from 2015, is "alarming" and "a call for action."

Scientists have said the stock has declined because of environmental factors and late spawning, not because of the commercial fishery, which had a 20,000-tonne quota last year.

What humans fish is small compared to the amount eaten by other fish, birds and whales, according to the experts at DFO.

"You can't take that amount out of the water and say it has no impact. Our people are seeing it," Russell told Labrador Morning.

He said people in southern Labrador have noted that capelin are also smaller than usual and appear unhealthy.

A suspension of the fishery is what the NunatuKavut Community Council is calling for in a letter to Dominic LeBlanc, the federal fisheries minister.

In the meantime, Russell said the department needs to do more scientific study and pay attention to the observations of people who live near the ocean.​

With files from Labrador Morning