The capelin’s (Lat: Mallotus villosus) habitat is in the cold seas of the North Atlantic, in the Barent Sea, around Iceland, off the Greenlandic and Canadian coasts. In Icelandic waters it keeps in the cold sea to the north of the country for the better part of its life, but migrates to the warmer seas to the south and southeast of the country to spawn. During the first year of the fries lives, they can be found in great numbers all around the country, with the greates concentration off the north coast. Two years old capelins are no exception.
Mature fishes stick to the same locations, except during July-August, when they migrate to the boundaries of the cold and warm ocean currents to the east of the country and to the west along the south coast. A part of the migration lies to Jan Mayen and all the way to 72-74°N and back in the autumn (September). The capelin is found close to the surface escept when it spawns on the ocean floor.
The most important food for the young capelin is crustaceans (i.e. Calanus finmarchicus). As the fish grows, krill (Eupahusiidae), becomes more important.
Most fish species feed off capelin sometimes during their life span. Most is consumed during March, when it migates to the spawning grounds. After spawning the females perish.
Young capelin grows much slower than the mature. Mature males grow faster than the females. Capelin reaches puberty three years old on the average.
In earlier times, the capelin was not considered food fish. At the turn of the 19th century it was used for bait and later for fish meal and frozen without further processing. In 1964 the Icelandic catch was 8,400 tonnes; in 1975 460 thousand; in 1976 1,1 million.