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The capelin observer network
continues its good work!
Capelin Observer Network Campaign Picture
C. Tremblay

The Capelin Observer Network (CON) was set up in 2003 to learn more about capelin spawning habits and locate spawning grounds in the Quebec portion of the estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Why so much interest in such a small fish? Because the capelin is nothing less than the ecosystem's main forage species. An essential prey for cod, capelin is also a component in the diets of halibut, flounder, salmon, dolphins, seals, some whales, northern gannets and other seabirds.

Since the network was created, the number of observers and observations has grown steadily. During the 2009 season, 123 observers reported 351 observations, 243 of which involved spawning activity. This represents an increase of 78 percent in the number of observers and 77 percent in the number of observations compared to 2008.

Evolution in the number of CON observers and observation reports

Evolution in the number of CON observers and observation reports

The observations reported in 2009 were made in 61 different areas and on 84 beaches. Ten new spawning sites were catalogued this year, which refines the general capelin breeding range portrait. Also, a new capelin-related fact was discovered last year: a team of divers exploring the waters between L’Anse-Pleureuse and Gros-Morne on the Gaspé Peninsula found a demersal (on the seabed) spawning ground nine metres below the surface. The team even filmed a school of capelin spawning there.

Overview of spawning observations reported in 2009

Zone Number of observations Date of first and last observations
Upper estuary 25 May 17 - June 18
Lower estuary
45 April 30 – July 7
Middle North Shore
87 May 12 – July 15
Lower North Shore
7 June 23 – July 9
Gulf/Gaspé Peninsula
66 May 25 – late June
Chaleur Bay
13 May 15 – June 5
Magdalen Islands
0 -

Note: A lack of spawning observations in an area or on a given date does not mean there was no spawning activity there at that time.

The information gathered by the network helps improve the protection of capelin spawning sites, particularly during their breeding and incubation period. Measures to mitigate impact on the habitat can also be recommended when work is to be done near breeding grounds.

Where and when will the capelin be coming in this year?
This year again, the Capelin Observation Network is calling on the public and inviting people to help gather data. To send in your observations during the season or if you have any questions, you can contact:

Capelin Observer Network

Underwater video produced by Les Productions un Monde à Part inc.
Réseau des observateurs sous-marins Web site
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is not responsible for information provided on outside sites.

Danièle Raby
Gaspe – Lower St. Lawrence Area