🇫🇮 A quarter of the commercial marine fishery catch was landed abroad in 2023

January 25, 2024
 A photo of a trawler on a dark winter’s night.
The largest fishing vessels are operated regardless of the weather and time of day Photo: Markku Saiha

According to preliminary estimates, the total catch of commercial marine fishery in 2023 was 90 million kilos, slightly larger than in the previous year but smaller than the average in the 2000s. The catch mainly consisted of Baltic herring and sprat caught in the open sea by the trawler fleet. The catch from coastal areas included perch, pikeperch, European whitefish, vendace, bream and roach.

According to provisional statistics by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), last year’s Baltic herring catch totalled 69 million kilos, being roughly a million kilos larger than in 2022. The total catch of sprat, caught alongside the fishery targeting at Baltic herring, increased by slightly more than a million kilos from the previous year to 15 million kilos. A fifth of the Baltic herring catch and more than half of the sprat catch were unloaded at ports in Estonia and Sweden where the nearest landing port in the fishing area is often located.

The bulk of the Baltic herring catch was fished in the Bothnian Sea

Baltic herring and sprat accounted for 94 per cent of the total commercial marine fishery catch. The volume of the Baltic herring and sprat catch was massed on few vessels: ten trawlers caught two thirds of the total catch. These 27–40 metre vessels were operated on 175 days a year on average and landed their catch in Finland and abroad. At least a thousand kilos of Baltic herring were recorded by some 70 vessels, 30 of which fished with trawls and 40 with gillnets or traps.

“The bulk of the Baltic herring catch was fished in the Bothnian Sea, the sprat catch in the northern part of the Baltic Proper in the area between Hanko and Saaremaa, as well as in the Gulf of Finland,” says Senior Statistician Pirkko Söderkultalahti.

Baltic herring, sprat, cod and salmon catches are regulated by annually agreed international catch quotas, the goal of which is to ensure the sustainable use of fish stocks. In Finland, a Baltic herring quota has been set for two regulatory areas. Of the quota set for the Gulf of Bothnia, 71 per cent was utilised in the previous year, while the corresponding figure was 95 per cent in the Gulf of Finland, the Archipelago Sea and the Baltic Proper.

“Finland’s sprat quota was fully utilised. Less than half of the salmon quota was reached, totalling a little more than 16,500 fish, and 59 per cent of the cod quota of 44,000 kilos was utilised. Only ten years ago, Finland’s cod catch was almost half a million kilos, and the salmon catch was more than twice as large as last year,” says Söderkultalahti.

The Baltic herring and sprat quotas set for 2024 were reduced in the negotiations of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council at the end of 2023. This year, the quota for Finland is roughly 54 million kilos for Baltic herring and some 10 million kilos for sprat. Finland’s salmon quota in the Baltic Proper and the Gulf of Bothnia dropped from 27,000 to 14,000 fish. In the Gulf of Finland, the salmon quota was only reduced slightly, being roughly 9,100. Finland’s cod quota decreased from 44 to 13 tonnes.

The number of active fishers decreases from one year to the next

The majority of commercial fishers fished non-quota species using trawlers, gillnets or traps close to coastal areas. In the Bothnian Bay, a larger than average vendace catch was fished by the trawlers. A large smelt catch was fished in the Bothnian Sea using trap nets. In addition, the perch, bream and roach catches were larger than on average in the 2000s. The more than ten-year decrease in the pikeperch catch stopped, the pike catch was at the average level, while the European whitefish, burbot and trout catches were smaller than on average.

“Catches are affected by fishing effort in addition to the state of fish populations and demand for fish. The number of active fishers has decreased by a third from more than 1,500 during the past ten years. Active fishers numbered roughly 1,000 in 2022 and 950 in 2023,” says Söderkultalahti.
Commercial marine fishers caught 38 different fish species. In addition to the commonly known species, catches included the Prussian carp, viviparous blenny, three-spined stickleback, round goby, asp, common chub and vimba bream.

Background to the statistics

The information is based on the statistics produced by Luke on commercial marine fishery catches. The estimated volumes of Baltic herring, sprat, salmon 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 species caught and the size of the ship, all commercial fishers 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 utilisation of fishing quotas. Luke has access to fishery data for statistical and research purposes.

Originally published on 25 January by Luke.

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