Fisheries Group of Central Finland
Presentation of FLAG Central Finland
The Fisheries Local Action Group of Central Finland (Sisä-Suomen kalatalousryhmä) was approved as a local fisheries action group in September 2015.
The Fisheries Action Group operates in the province of Keski-Suomi, the province of Päijät-Häme, and parts of the provinces of Kymenlaakso and Etelä-Savo. One can say that the group’s operating area covers the Kymijoki River basin, except for its lowermost parts. There are 37 municipalities in this area.
There are approximately 200,000 hectares of waterways where professional fishing can be practiced. Furthermore, the area provides good conditions for fish farming: the flow rate in the area’s waterways is high, which ensures sufficient water supply for fish farms.
Quality of the water in most of the local waterways is good or excellent. However, large lakes in the northernmost part of the area are either barren or somewhat lush. The largest lake in the area, Lake Päijänne, can be divided into a very poorly nutrified southern part and a slightly more nutrified northern part.
According to statistics published by the Natural Resources Institute Finland in 2012, there are around 50–60 professional fishermen in the operating area of the Central Finland Fisheries Group. This figure refers to the number of registered fishermen. Around thirty of them are full-time professional fishermen. The number of professional fishermen has remained reasonably steady in the past few years. However, their number threatens to decrease due to ageing. Around fifteen trawling collectives practice fishing in the operating area of the Central Finland Fisheries Group. The most important species fished are vendace (Coregonus albula), pikeperch (Zander lucioperca) and whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus).
Fish farming is mainly practiced in the northern part of the area. It is the financially most important fishery trade in this area. There are large facilities that focus on breeding juvenile fish for stocking and a couple of facilities that produce fish for slaughter. The number of jobs in fish farming industry companies experiences seasonal fluctuation and varies between sixty and a hundred jobs.
There are excellent opportunities for fishing tourism and tourist fishing in the operating area of the Central Finland Fisheries Group, even though profitability of fishing tourism and the number of companies active in the industry are fairly minor. Most companies focusing on fishing tourism can be found in northern Central Finland (north of the town of Jyväskylä). Fishing tourism in Central Finland utilises flowing waters of the Rautalammi route and other fishing opportunities in a versatile manner. In the Kouvola region, fishing tourism business and tourist fishing utilise the small local lakes and Kymijoki River. Depending on how they are calculated, there are 10–30 jobs in this industry.
There are only a few significant active fish processing companies in the area, around 5–10 in Keski-Suomi and a few in Päijät-Häme.
Three companies in Keski-Suomi, two companies in Päijät-Häme and one company in Kouvola sell fish as their main source of income. There are several wholesale companies that sell fish in the area, but only one of them has an office in the area. Business of the companies that sell fish in the retail or wholesale market is made more difficult by the fact that the availability of fish fluctuates seasonally. The companies that sell fish in the retail or wholesale market employ around ten people total.
The key strength of the area are the pure waters and thus the excellent quality of the fish. The good water quality in the area and the sufficient water volume also guarantee good conditions for fish farming. This is partly why fish meant to be used as food or restocking fish are fairly healthy and free from any fish diseases. The area’s strengths also include excellent professional skills of the local fishermen and fish farmers. There are several professional fishermen who have invested in the development of fish processing and the quality of fish.
Strong and professional primary production creates a strong basis for the development of commerce and fish processing. The area is fairly close to several important market areas. At present, there are three high-quality fish harbours in the area. The fish harbour in Padasjoki with its refrigerated warehouse can even be used as an model of an excellent Finnish fish harbour. Partly due to these functional fish harbours, fish – particularly when delivered to be sold fresh – has a good reputation among consumers and stores.
The area’s weaknesses include poor basic production level in some of the lakes and thus smaller caches than from more nutrified waterways. This is why the fishermen need to work hard in some areas in order to catch enough fish to retain their income level. One of the area’s weaknesses in terms of fish farming in the water is the fact that there are not many places suitable for new fish farms. This has prevented some of the companies active in the area from increasing their production volume. Furthermore, the companies are not very willing to make investments.
Certain social factors and people finding the fishing industry a threat hinder the fishing industry in the area. The negative atmosphere may deteriorate the professional fishermen’s opportunities to utilise the water areas. In addition, obtaining fishing permits for some areas is difficult because of the fragmented ownership structure of the water areas. Many of the fishermen have to catch their fish in several different areas, which deteriorates the efficiency and profitability of the fishing companies.
According to the Group’s vision, the area is known for its high-quality fish products, good production methods and highly functional logistics. Cooperation between all the parties included in the industry’s production chain – both between consulting and development organisations and between water area owners and the authorities – is seamless. Profitability of the industry has improved due to new production methods, improved logistics and increased processing degree. Profitable tourism fishing businesses active in the area work in close cooperation with local communities, other tourism sector companies in the area and the professional fishermen.
We can reach the target status specified in the vision by realising three strategic policies.
1. DEVELOPMENT OF EXPERTISE, QUALITY AND INNOVATIONS
2. DEVELOPMENT OF INFRASTRUCTURE AND OPERATING ENVIRONMENT
3. DEVELOPMENT OF NEW PRODUCTS AND MARKETS
There are four themes that cover all of these policies: cooperation, sustainable commercial fishing, young people and adapting to climate change. The Central Finland`s Fisheries Strategy and the measures funded with the help of the strategy promote the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Europe 2020 strategy. Whenever possible, other funding channels and programmes are used to fund the fisheries strategy measures. Furthermore, implementation of the programme requires extensive cooperation within the area. The cooperation focuses on parties active in the fishing industry, water area owners, research establishments and educational establishments, and business development companies and corporations active in the area.
Total funding of the Fisheries Group for the programme period 2014–2020 is around one million euros, of which € 700,000 comes from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Of the public programme funding, around 10% will be used in the administration of the Fisheries Group during the programme period, most of it municipal funding. Around 50% of the funding in compliance with the programme policies will be used for the programme measures and field activation measures.
Administration of the Central Finland Fisheries Group will be realised based on experiences from other parts of Finland during the previous programme period in cooperation with local action groups. Each LAG has more than ten years of experience in local development. The LAG Päijänne-Leader ry, which is active in the Häme Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, is in charge of the administration of the Inland Finland Fisheries Group. The LAG employs the project activator. The activator is Mr Janne Ruokolainen.
The activator is in charge of finding project ideas that can be developed and presenting them to the Fisheries Group division. Innovative projects and projects that improve competitiveness and vitality of the fishing industry will be given priority. Special attention will be paid in children and adolescents, because they are the future users of fish products and the future of the profession.
Janne Ruokolainen, FLAG Manager
+358 (0) 44 712 4209