Citizen scientists to monitor capelin this summer

WWF-Canada launches a public web site to capture big data on small forage fish

MONTREAL, June 21 2017 /CNW/ - WWF-Canada today launched, a citizen-science initiative to collect data on capelin spawning sites in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic Canada.

Capelin are small fish with an important role in the marine ecosystem as they feed large populations of predators such as seabirds and whales. Little data is currently available on the state of capelin stocks. The new website,, encourages members of the public to report capelin sightings. The data provided will be analyzed to pinpoint capelin spawning sites to help guide habitat protection and will further our understanding of seasonal capelin movement through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and around Atlantic Canada. WWF-Canada has also partnered with Park Forillon National Park to curate an educational exhibition on capelin for summer visitors.

Capelin facts

  • Found in the cold waters of the north-western Atlantic, capelin are small fish that are an important source of food for seabirds, seals and whales, and are the preferred food of northern cod.
  • Some species, such as humpback and minke whales, and harbour seals, depend on capelin for more than 75 per cent of their food.
  • Capelin are the only Canadian fish that come on to beaches to spawn, generally in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic Canada. This is known as "capelin rolling" because of the way the fish flip-flop on the beach.
  • Forage fish such as capelin are vulnerable to overfishing because they congregate in shoals so are easy to catch even when the stock is declining.


  • WWF-Canada developed the website in partnership with St. Lawrence Global Observatory (SLGO).
  • It encourages coastal residents, visitors, researchers and professionals to transmit data related to capelin spawning sites simply by sharing their photos of observed capelin "rolls" at

Capelin on the Cape: an educational experience in the Gaspé

  • Now open to visitors, the Capelan on the Cape exhibition, organized by WWF-Canada in collaboration with Forillon National Park, is an exhibit on forage fish and their importance to marine ecosystems as key species of the St. Lawrence.
  • This exhibit features 16 markers along the Prélude-à-Forillon trail and a capelin video at the park's interpretive center. Over the course of the 600 metre trail, visitors learn about capelin while looking for one of six species of whales or dolphins that live in the ocean off of the park.

Aurélie Cosandey-Godin, WWF-Canada's senior oceans specialist, said:

"The lack of data on capelin limits our knowledge of how marine ecosystems work. We hope, coupled with our exhibit in partnership with Forillon National Park, will create a groundswell of enthusiasm for reporting capelin sightings in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. The information participants provide will be invaluable for our conservation efforts to support forage fish so species like humpback whales and harbour seals can thrive."

Stéphane Marchand, Director of Forillon National Park, said:
"Parks Canada is pleased to partner with WWF-Canada to host this new forage fish exhibit. We invite our visitors to explore it in the North sector of Forillon National Park, and to learn more about the capelin that rolls on our shores every year."

Visitor information:

Where: Forillon National Park, 122 Boulevard de Gaspé, Gaspé (QC), G4X 0B1
When: Now until September 2017
Admission: Free

About SLGO
The St. Lawrence Global Observatory is a non-profit organization that provides integrated access to scientific data on the St. Lawrence system through the networking of various organizations (governments, universities, NGOs and others), producers and data holders to meet their needs and those of users, to improve knowledge and to help decision-making.

About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit


For further information: Catharine Tunnacliffe, communications specialist, WWF-Canada, 416 489 4567 ext 7224,; Pour plus de renseignements en français : Laurence Cayer-Desrosiers, Spécialiste communications et événements, WWF-Canada, 514-394-1106,


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