Category: News

The Finnish coastal FLAGs’ letter to the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

by balticfisheries

The Finnish coastal fisheries action groups' letter to Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

In their reply to the Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius The Finnish coastal fisheries action groups emphasize the important role of the coastal small-scale fisheries in the Baltic Sea region. The Finnish coastal groups ask EU Parliament's and Commissioner's contribution in abolishing the trade ban on seal products in the European Union.

27 May 2020

To: Mr Virginijus Sinkevičius

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Dear Sir,

We are grateful for your answer to the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project’s open letter, dated 17 December 2019, regarding seal- and cormorant-caused damages to the Baltic Sea coastal fisheries.

We the representatives of the Finnish coastal fisheries action groups would like to emphasise the character of small-scale coastal fisheries and their important role in the Baltic Sea region.

We noticed that the reasons you cited in your answer for the downward trend of fisheries —such as dependence on cod, changes in operational costs, structural problems, overfishing and weakness in marketing strategies — ­­­­­­­­­­­concern only a part of the EU fleet. These causes are not the main concerns of the Baltic small-scale fisheries, which are threatened more by overgrown grey seal and cormorant populations. It is vital that the EU Commission and the Parliament delve more specifically into the questions and challenges of the Baltic Sea region we presented in our letter.

Baltic Sea coastal small-scale fishing is artisanal by nature. Small, only 5- to 6-meter, vessels use passive gear with very little environmental impact; gillnets, fyke nets and longlines are used in inshore waters. The operating units are almost without exception family-owned and don’t have a chance to hire workers. It is common that one family member fishes and the other works processing the catch and doing direct sales. Coastal fishing does not concentrate on any single species but requires fishing multiple species, depending on season. From an economic perspective, small-scale fisheries are important in preventing depopulation and maintaining the vitality of the coastal areas.

The issue of seal- and cormorant-caused damages on small-scale fisheries has been reported to the European Commission on several occasions. As you highlighted in your answer, “the impacts can be mitigated using measures to prevent or reduce damage caused by these protected species and by compensating the economic losses.” All the measures and policies mentioned are undoubtedly important and necessary, but unfortunately, in the present situation, they are not adequate. Despite all these efforts, we have not succeeded in responding to the crisis. Quite the opposite: coastal small-scale fishing is disappearing from our Baltic coasts.

The crisis that the fishers face every day on the sea ultimately affects consumers. Fish as an essential part of the diet has significant positive value for public health. Coastal small-scale fisheries play an important part in the food security of the Baltic Sea region. Especially now during the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of local food security has risen, highlighting the role of fisheries. The economic compensation paid to fishers suffering from seal- and cormorant-caused damages is not a solution and does not bring fish to consumers’ dining tables.

When the grey seal population was monitored in the Baltic Sea area last year, over 38,100 individuals were counted. This means that the estimated population size is around 47,650–63,535 individuals [1]. The Baltic grey seal population is now almost 5 times bigger than the LRL target that HELCOM has set.

In November 2019, the Natural Resources Institute Finland published a report, “The impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers”. The report noted that the fishermen share the same experience in the Baltic Region: “The impacts of seals and cormorants are often serious obstacles for the continuation of the fishing livelihood”. As the research concluded: “Steps forward necessitate wide collaboration across sectors both regionally and internationally.” [2]

As we understand it, the European Commission responsible for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries seeks to promote, to maintain and to secure the development of sustainable fisheries. Appealing to this mission, we ask you and the EU Parliament to help the Baltic fishermen navigate this deepening crisis and ensure the future of the Baltic small-scale coastal fisheries.

We would like to ask your contribution in:

-           Abolishing the trade ban on seal products in the European Union

-           Acknowledging the importance of the work aiming for a sustainable balance between traditional coastal fishing and sustainable levels of seals and cormorants, including ecological, economic, social and cultural aspects.

-           Looking for further possibilities to reduce the grey seal population to a sustainable level. The management plan for Baltic seals (2007) is based on statistics from the year 2005.

-           Unifying the interpretation of the Commission guidelines on derogations under Article 9 of the Birds Directive. The Cormorant clause is currently interpreted in different ways by the Baltic Sea Region States, leading to legal uncertainty and incoherence.

In 2015 United Nations member countries agreed on the UN Sustainable Development outcomes and the strategy that guides and promotes implementation during the years 2016–2030. The programme and its objectives apply without distinction to all countries. Primary goal 14, Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, concerns ecosystems of seas, marine resources and fishing. All requirements of the sub-objectives of primary goal 14 are also relevant to Baltic small-scale fisheries. Sub-objective 14.b provides access for small-scale fishers to marine resources and markets and this rise the small-scale fisheries as a specific objective. It is clear that the overgrown seal and cormorant population precludes all actions to reach the goal described in sub-objective 14.b. Baltic small-scale coastal fishing is about to disappear.

We need action from the European Commission on this serious situation and your contribution to secure the traditional livelihood of small-scale coastal fisheries in the Baltic Sea.


[1] Hylkeet, 2019, LUKE: [2] The impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers, 2019, Kristina Svels, Pekka Salmi, Juhani Mellanoura and Jari Niukko:

Yours sincerely,

Esko Taanila 
South Finland FLAG ESKO, Finland

Iiro Majuri
Coastal Bothnian Bay FLAG, Finland

Maria Saarinen
FLAG Archipelago Sea, Finland 

Jonas Harald
FLAG Ostrobothnia, Finland

Mika Halttu
FLAG Bothnian Sea and Lake Pyhäjärvi, Finland

Wachstum der Robben- und Kormoranbestände bedroht Lebensunterhalt der Ostseefischer

by balticfisheries

Pressemitteilung 18.11.2019

Das Wachstum der Robben- und Kormoranbestände ist verantwortlich für eine starke Bedrohung des Lebensunterhalts der Fischer in der Ostseeregion, bestätigt eine neue Studie: Die Einflüsse von Robben und Kormoranen aus der Erfahrung von gewerblichen Ostseefischern.

Ein jüngst veröffentlichte Studie des Institutes für Natürliche Ressourcen Finnlands, auf 219 Interviews mit Fischern in sechs Ländern in der Ostseeregion basierend, bestätigt dass der Einfluss von Robben und Kormoranen eine starke Bedrohung für die Sicherung des Lebensunterhalts der kleinstrukturierten Küstenfischerei darstellt.

Die Studie wurde in Kooperation mit dem Ostsee-Robben-Kormoran-Projekt, einer internationalen Kooperation von Leader- und Fischwirtschaftsgruppen (FLAG`s) in Schweden, Finnland, Deutschland und Estland, durchgeführt. Erstmalig wurden die robben- und kormoranbedingten Schäden derart umfangreich in verschiedenen Ostseeanrainerstaaten abgeschätzt.

Die Ostseerobben- und Kormoranpopulation verursachen direkte und indirekte Schäden besonders in der traditionellen kleinstrukturierten Küstenfischerei, so z. B. Veränderungen in den Fischbeständen und ihrem Verhalten, Reduktion von Fängen sowie Schäden an den Netzen und an den Fischen selber. Der Report diskutiert die Vielzahl von Einflüssen und für eine Entschärfung der durch Robben und Kormorane verursachten Probleme sollte gemeinsam mit Fischern und anderen Interessengruppen eine sektorenübergreifende Zusammenarbeit erfolgen.

„Die Einflüsse der Robben und Kormorane würden häufig Änderungen der Fangstrategien und Investitionen erforderlich machen, aber die Möglichkeit für Fischer, neue Wege zu finden, wurde eingeschränkt. In dieser Situation ist das Begeistern und Gewinnen jüngerer Menschen für den Beruf der gewerblichen Fischer eine Herausforderung geworden,“ erklärt die Studie.

Die Fischwirtschaftsgruppe Westmecklenburgische Ostseeküste (FLAG WMO) mit Sitz in Grevesmühlen war in Deutschland an der Studie beteiligt. 20 Küstenfischer aus der Wismarer Fischereigenossenschaft wurden interviewt. Alle Fischer sind durch Auswirkungen von Kormoranen und Robben betroffen, aber in der beteiligten Region Deutschlands sind im Gegensatz zu den anderen 13 Regionen die Schäden durch Kormorane höher als durch Robben. Die Schäden durch Kormorane und Robben der Fischer betragen durchschnittlich 26.653 Euro in Finnland, 25.376 Euro in Schweden und 7.149 Euro in Estland. Die Fischer in der westlichen Ostsee schätzen die Schäden auf ca. 5.069 Euro pro Betrieb und Jahr. Einigkeit besteht bei allen beteiligten Fischern, das die bestehenden Managementmaßnahmen nicht ausreichen, um auch künftig frischen und regionalen Fisch aus der Ostsee an der Küste anbieten zu können.

Link: Die Einflüsse von Robben und Kormoranen aus der Erfahrung von gewerblichen Ostseefischern.

Thorsten Wichmann
Referent für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und
Naturschutz des LFV M-V e. V.
Tel.:     0049-172-9315529

Hüljeste ja kormoranide kasvavad populatsioonid põjustavad tõsist ohtu kalamajanduse jätkumisele Läänemere regioonis, kinnitab uus uuring

by balticfisheries

Pressiteade 12.11.2019

Uus uuring kinnitab, et  hüljeste ja kormoranide kasvav populatsioon põhjustab tõsist ohtu Läänemere kutselise  kalanduse jätkumisele.

Soome Loodusvarade Instituudi (LUKE) värskelt avaldatud aruanne, mis põhineb 219 kaluri intervjuul kuues Läänemere-äärses riigis, kinnitab, et hüljeste ja kormoranide toime on tõsine oht väikesemahulise rannapüügi jätkumisele. Uuring viidi läbi Rootsi, Soome, Saksamaa ja Eesti Leader- ja kalanduse kohalike algatusrühmade riikidevahelise koostööprojekti raames. Esmakordselt hinnati hüljeste ja kormoranide põhjustatud kahjustusi ulatuslikult mitmes Läänemere riigis.

Läänemere hülge- ja kormoranipopulatsioonid põhjustavad otseseid ja kaudseid kahjusid peamiselt traditsioonilisele väikesemahulisele rannapüügile - kalavarude ja kalade käitumise muutused, kalasaagi vähenemine ning püügivahendite ja kalade kahjustused. Aruandes käsitletakse mõjude ja põhjuste paljususi läbilõikeliselt, et kavandada kalurite ja muude sidusrühmade koostööd hüljeste ja kormoranide põhjustatud probleemide leevendamiseks.

“Hüljeste ja kormoranide probleem tingib vajaduse muuta kalapüügistrateegiaid ning tegema lisainvesteeringuid, kuid selleks on kalurite võimalused vähenemas. Samal põhjusel ei ole ka kutselise kaluri amet noorele inimesele huvipakkuv ja atraktiivne“ seisab aruandes.

Link: Hüljeste ja kormoranide mõju Läänemere kutselistele kaluritele

Erko Veltson
Kalanduse teabekeskus
+3725855 3029

Hylje- ja merimetsokantojen kasvu on uhka kalastuselinkeinon olemassaololle, vahvistaa uusi selvitys

by balticfisheries

Lehdistötiedote 12.11.2019

Hylje- ja merimetsokantojen kasvu aiheuttaa vakavia vahinkoja pienimuotoiselle rannikkokalastukselle Itämeren alueella ja on uhka elinkeinon jatkuvuudelle, vahvistaa Luonnonvarakeskuksen uusi selvitys The Impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fishers.

Luonnonvarakeskuksen julkaisema raportti perustuu laajaan kansainväliseen haastatteluaineistoon, joka kerättiin kuudesta Itämeren maasta vuonna 2018. Aineistoa varten haastateltiin 219 rannikkokalastajaa Suomesta, Ruotsista, Virosta, Saksasta, Puolasta ja Tanskasta. Selvitys toteutettiin yhdessä kalatalousryhmien yhteisen Itämeren alueen hylje- ja merimetsoprojektin kanssa. Hylkeiden ja merimetsojen aiheuttamien vahinkojen vaikutuksia selvitettiin ensimmäistä kertaa näin laajasti Itämeren alueella.

Itämeren hylje- ja merimetsokantojen kasvu vaikeuttaa rannikkokalastuksen elinkeinoa monin tavoin. Haastateltujen kalastajien mukaan vaikutukset näkyvät kalakannoissa, kalojen käyttäytymisen muutoksina, rikkoutuneina pyydyksinä, vähentyneenä ja vahingoittuneena saaliina, sekä lisääntyneinä ajanjaksoina, jolloin hylkeet ja merimetsot estävät kalastuksen kokonaan. “Hylkeiden ja merimetsojen vaikutukset edellyttävät usein kalastusstrategioiden muuttamista tai investointien tekemistä, mutta tällaisia mahdollisuuksia ei monellakaan ole. Tässä tilanteessa nuorten kalastajien houkutteleminen elinkeinon pariin on haasteellista”, todetaan raportissa.

Suomalaiset kalastajat arvioivat menettävänsä hylkeiden aiheuttamien vahinkojen takia keskimäärin 20 000 euroa vuodessa. Merimetsojen aiheuttamien vahinkojen arvoksi kalastajat arvioivat keskimäärin 6000 euroa vuosittain. Raportin mukaan hylkeiden ja merimetsojen aiheuttamien vahinkojen monimuotoista vaikutusta on syytä pohtia kansallista ja kansainvälistä hylje- ja merimetsopolitiikkaa koskevissa keskusteluissa, mutta myös tutkimuksessa, suunnittelussa ja päätöksenteossa. Selvitys peräänkuuluttaa laaja-alaista ja sektorirajat ylittävää alueellista ja kansainvälistä yhteistyötä. Hylkeiden ja merimetsojen aiheuttamien ongelmien vähentämistoimet tulisi suunnitella yhteistyössä kalastajien ja muiden sidosryhmien kanssa.

Elektroninen julkaisu on luettavissa: The Impacts of seals and cormorants experienced by Baltic Sea commercial fisher


Esko Taanila
Baltic Sea Seal- & Cormorant TNC-project

The Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project will attend the BALTFISH symposium

by balticfisheries

The BALTFISH presidency will hold a symposium on seal – fish/fisheries interaction in the Baltic Sea. The seminar will take place on March 19 - 20 in Gothenburg, Sweden. The head of the Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project Mr Esko Taanila will attend the symposium to present preliminary results of the research on the damage to small-scale coastal fisheries in the Baltic Sea caused by seals and cormorants.

Current information on Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant project 

by balticfisheries

The situation now

The Baltic Sea Seal and Cormorant TNC project proceeds as planned. So far two major parts of the project have taken place. Firstly, an investigation has been made of 50 national research reports concerning seal and cormorant damages, concentrating on the measurement of the economic loss for the fishermen. Secondly, the first 230 interviews have been collected from Finland (5 FLAGs), Sweden (7 FLAGs), Germany (1 FLAG) and Estonia (1 FLAG). The questionnaire was quite comprehensive, and the fishermen gave their estimation on the economic loss, change of workload, loss of catch etc. caused by seals and cormorants.  All the gathered information will be investigated by academics on a scientific level. We expect to get the first results early next spring. About the preliminary results can be said, that the situation is very serious and that there is a big variation in different areas. It seems that e. g. in Finland the income of the fishermen has dropped to an average of two thirds during the last 15 years. At the same time, one has had to invest a lot more on the equipment, and the workload has grown significantly – except for those who cannot put their gear in the sea in the autumn months because of the seals. The project has been presented in a couple of occasions recently:  for Baltic Sea Advisory Council and in DG Mare -meetings. Three Finnish MEP:s, some MP:s and authorities visited Kotka, Finland, in the beginning of November. Esko Taanila, the manager of South Finland FLAG ESKO, got them interested in how to find new sustainable ways to save traditional small-scale fishery, and at the same time take care of the balance of the ecosystem. Last week, FLAG ESKO also introduced the project to the audience of the seminar Östersjöfisket 2020 (”The Baltic fishery in 2020”) at Simrishamn, Sweden, and got excellent feedback.


We got excellent news last week: fishermen from Poland and Denmark will join the project and answer the questionnaire. Those results will add considerably to the value of the project. We are working on a communication plan for next year. We shall introduce the results of this project to different actors, and also inform about the possibilities and the meaning of benefiting from our wonderful resource: sustainably caught local fish.