Pacific Capelin Pacific capelin is an anadromous species, which means it spawns in seawater and completes its entire life cycle in freshwater or brackish habitats. Adult Pacific capelin typically reach sexual maturity at three years of age, but individuals as young as two years old have been found with ripe gonads. Pacific capelin spawn from December through March. Females release between 300,000 and 2,000,000 eggs during spawning events that last for three to four weeks.
Pacific capelin Mallotus catervarius are planktivorous, small pelagic fish that serve an intermediate trophic role in marine food webs. Like other forage fish species, they provide a major food source to several predators before being consumed themselves (Fanelli et al., 2005). Capelin primarily occupy shelf waters near the Kodiak Archipelago and are patchily distributed across the GOA shelf and inshore waters.
Male and female flatfish begin life with eyes on opposing sides of the body. But as these young-of-the-year - which swim upright like other fish - mature, the left eye moves to the right side of the body and vice versa. In some species this shift happens gradually, in others, it occurs in a single movement.
Adult capelin migrate offshore to spawn, mostly between December and March. Adult Pacific capelin have been found from depths of 16 to 1,000 feet in Kodiak Harbor. During the winter, schools have been found within 100 meters from shore near Casco Cove and Caswell Beach close to 1,000 feet depth (Kruse 1959).
The only known predator of adult capelin in Kodiak waters is the northern fur seal, whose remains have been found regurgitated in stomachs of captive adult Pacific capelin. Juvenile capelin are preyed upon by seabirds and marine mammals. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons have been observed feeding on juvenile capelin in the Kodiak Archipelago.
In the late summer, Pacific capelin migrate to Kodiak Island and other nearshore areas in south-central Alaska and can be found inshore feeding on crustaceans and fish eggs. This species has a high fecundity with an average of 724,000 eggs per spawner (Sinclair et al., 1981). Capelin distribution in Kodiak waters is patchy. They can be found in small schools and they seem to congregate opposite Kodiak Island nearshore (Sinclair et al., 1981). The juveniles are also inshore, mostly concentrated around the tip of South-central Kodiak Island during September through October before heading offshore in late fall or winter.
Global Pacific capelin production
The Pacific capelin is a small fish that is found in the northern Pacific Ocean. It is an important food source for many animals, including humans. The Pacific capelin is also known as the California smelt, or simply the capelin. Pacific capelin (Mallotus villosus) is a small forage fish belonging to the smelt family. It is distributed in the North Pacific Ocean, from Hokkaido in Japan to the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. The species is also found in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan. Capelin are an important prey species for many marine mammals and birds. They are also valued as commercial fish, particularly in Japan and Russia.
The global production of Pacific capelin is estimated to be around 1 million tonnes per year. The vast majority of this production comes from the Russian Federation, with other significant contributors being Japan, Canada, and the United States of America. Capelin are typically harvested using midwater trawls, and the majority of the catch is used for human consumption, with a small portion being used as fishmeal or oil.
The Pacific capelin fishery is managed by international agreement, under the Convention for the Conservation of Anadromous Stocks in the North Pacific Ocean (CCASNPO). The CCASNPO is a multi-lateral treaty that seeks to conserve anadromous fish stocks in the north Pacific Ocean. The agreement covers four main species of anadromous fish, including Pacific salmon, steelhead trout, eulachon, and pacific herring. Under the agreement, signatory states are required to take measures to conserve these fish stocks and their habitats.
The Pacific capelin fishery is managed under a precautionary approach, with catch limits being set at levels that allow for the sustainable use of the resource. The CCASNPO has been successful in reducing the overfishing of Pacific capelin, and the stock is now considered to be healthy.