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Photo: Norwegian Seafood Export Council.Photo: Norwegian Seafood Export Council

Barents Sea Capelin (Mallotus villosus)

19.03.2013 // The Barents sea capelin stock is currently strong, and is harvested sustainably with a precautionary harvest control rule. The capelin stock is assessed by the ICES, using an assessment model specially designed for this stock.

The model takes into consideration the capelin consumed by cod during the period between the time of the survey when the capelin stock is measured in autumn, until spawning in late spring.

The capelin fishery was closed from 2003 to 2008, as the spawning stock was below 200 000 tons, even in the absence of a fishery. In 2009 the capelin fishery was reopenedand there has been a fishery since. Today this is potentially the largest capelin stock in the world. For 2013 the quota was set to 200 000 tons.

About the fishery

The Norwegian fishery is mainly a purse seine fishery, but some vessels use pelagic trawl when the stock gets close to the shore. Historically, the capelin was used mainly for fish meal and fish oil production. Only a small amount was prepared for human consumption on the Japanese market, mainly females containing roe. In recent years, a much larger proportion of the total landings have been used for human consumption. 

Management and technical regulations of the fishery

The Barents Sea capelin is managed according to a catch rule agreed upon by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fishery Commission, stating that quotas shall be limited to an extent where there is a high probability (95 per cent) that at least 200 000 tons of capelin are allowed to spawn. In addition to quotas, the fishery is regulated by closed seasons, closed areas, minimum mesh size and minimum landing size. During winter, areas are opened and closed based on observations of by-catch of herring and cod.


The stock size has varied significantly over the past 35 years, which is the period the stock size has been estimated. The variation is primarily caused by natural ecosystem changes and the capelin’s key role in the ecosystem as feed for other fish like north east arctic cod and young herring.

Bestandskart lodde/capelin

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