According to preliminary estimates, the total catch of commercial marine fishery in 2020 was 112 million kilos, being 23 million kilos lower than in the year before. The total catch was mainly Baltic herring and sprat. In coastal areas, fishermen mainly deployed gillnets and traps. Catches of many species decreased from the previous year in the coastal fishery, being lower than on average in the 2000s.
According to provisional statistics by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), last year’s Baltic herring catch totalled 92 million kilos, being 20 million kilos lower than in 2019. The total catch of sprat, caught as a by-catch in the fishery targeted for Baltic herring, decreased by four million kilos from the previous year to 12 million kilos. One-fifth of the Baltic herring catch and a little more than half of the sprat catch were landed outside Finland, mainly at ports in Estonia and Sweden.
Quotas regulate catches
The Baltic herring and sprat catches, primarily caught from the open sea by the trawler fleet, contained 93% of the total commercial marine catch. Baltic herring and sprat fishing was very concentrated, with nine trawlers of roughly 40 metres in length accounting for more than half of the total catch. Baltic herring and sprat were caught by 46 trawlers and 259 gillnet or trap vessels. The bulk of the Baltic herring catch was fished in the Bothnian Sea, while sprat was mainly caught from the Archipelago Sea.
“Baltic herring, sprat, cod and salmon catches are regulated by annually agreed international fishing quotas, the goal of which is to ensure the sustainable use of fish stocks. Finland’s annual Baltic herring quota has ranged between 62 and 175 million kilos during the 2000s. Last year’s Baltic herring quota of 98 million kilos was reached almost in full”, says Pirkko Söderkultalahti, senior statistician at Luke.
The sprat quota was reached in full, while 15% of the salmon quota remained unused. The status of the cod populations in the Baltic Sea is very poor, and quotas have been reduced significantly in recent years. Ten years ago, Finland’s total cod catch was more than one million kilos, while last year’s catch was only 23 tons, less than half of the cod quota.
One thousand active fishermen
The majority of commercial fishermen fished with gillnets or traps in coastal areas. The coastal fishery catch has been low during the 2000s. Last year, catches of smelt, bream and roach increased from the year before, being higher than on average in the 2000s, while catches of the commercially most significant species, such as European whitefish, perch, pikeperch and salmon, were low. The decrease in catches can be explained, for example, by decreases in fishing effort. The number of active fishermen has more than halved from over 2,100 fishermen during the past ten years.
Background to the statistics
The information is based on the statistics produced by Luke on the catches of commercial marine fishery. The estimated volumes of Baltic herring, sprat and cod catches are acceptably reliable. However, the catches of other species may be adjusted in the final statistics that will be completed in May. Depending on the size of the ship, all commercial fishermen are obligated to report their catch while the ship is at sea, within 48 hours of landing the catch, or by the 20th day of the month following the end of the fishing month. Ships longer than 15 metres are equipped with a satellite tracking system that allows the authorities to monitor the ship’s movement. The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) for Southwest Finland and the Provincial Government of Åland monitor the utilization of fishing quotas. Luke has access to fishery data for statistical and research purposes.