iceland search capelin resumes

Anticipation is growing in Iceland as the search for capelin resumes in early February with both fishing and research join the hunt. Photo: Capelin fishing by Björn Steinbekk

Excitement is building for the Icelandic pelgic fleet as it is expected that the search for capelin will begin in early February, with both research and fishing vessels participating in the quest.

The January expedition resulted in disappointment as ice prevented the ships from reaching the intended search area. It is speculated that capelin may still be largely present beneath the ice. This caught the attention of the expedition members, as, according to information from seasoned captains, it is not uncommon for capelin to migrate south of Langanes only after mid-February. The reality is that capelin behaviour is elusive, making it challenging to predict.

As there weren’t sufficient capelin samples found during the January expedition, the season has been put on hold, with the Icelandic government advising a zero-quota. Now a new search is set to begin, and fishermen and processors alike wait in anticipation.

“There is always tension in the air when capelin is sought in the lead-up to the capelin season, and capelin fishing holds great significance for companies, individuals, and local communities. The capelin season is a crucial period for capelin towns, creating substantial value in a short period,” reports Icelandic fish processor, Síldarvinnslan.

Vessels from the company have been participating in capelin fishing since 1966, and capelin was first processed in the company’s fishmeal factory in 1968. When capelin processing began, people wondered whether capelin could replace the disappearing Norwegian-Icelandic herring. The production of frozen capelin started at the Síldarvinnslan (which translates to “Herring Processing Company”) in 1971, and capelin roe production began in 1978.

For East Iceland, it is vital that the anticipated capelin search yields success, and capelin quotas are issued. People remember the challenges of capelin scarcity years when fishing was severely restricted or non-existent, reports Síldarvinnslan. Examples include the years 1981–1982, 1990–1991, and especially the years 2019 and 2020.


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