Katja Taimela

Salmon is an important fish for the Finns. Its health effects form a key part of a balanced diet. The vast majority of fresh salmon currently comes from Norway. In Finland, 70 %of the fish consumed is imported from abroad. The share of salmon within the Finnish professional fishery catch is minor; the salmon catch in 2010 was only 0.2%. Thus, the commercial value of the salmon catch accounted for about 3% of the total fishery.

However, for the tourism in Northern Finland, salmon is highly significant. The river Tornio is the largest salmon-fishing river in the whole of Europe, and tourism is the main business in the area of Tornio river valley. Tourism has also a significant business potential for growth. In the Tornio area, the main tourist attractions are the old fishing culture of the location, as well as sport fishing, traditional fishing and recreational fishing. Healthy and viable salmon populations are important for commercial, cultural, and recreational activities. The populations can be ensured only by the Baltic countries in a responsible and long-term co-operation.

In Finland, the coastal fishery has been reduced, and currently, a large part of the domestically caught salmon is farmed fish. Wild salmon stocks have during the recent decades weakened significantly. At this moment, an intense process to amend the situation is taking place. The concrete change within the political approach to Finland's fishery policy has already happened. Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen's government program includes a strong commitment to protect wild salmon stocks. When defining the quotas for 2013, the Finnish Parliament settled for the first time a major decrease in the fishery quotas. In addition, the Government approved a fish passage strategy where the message is clear: natural fish stocks are to be revived.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry set up in December last year a working group whose main objective is to find a consensus on a national strategy for the salmon. The working group will examine the Baltic salmon and sea trout fishery and salmon and sea trout stocks as well as other issues regarding the management of their natural life cycle Results from the working group are expected as early as this spring. It is important, that the forthcoming Salmon Strategy includes scientifically estimated quantified targets for brood fish rising to rivers, the achievement of which guarantees the long-term vitality of wild salmon stocks. Furthermore, the scientific evaluation methods need to be developed in order for them to be more widely accepted as the basis for the fisheries policy.

The decline in salmon stock contributes to the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. When the ecosystem is significantly weakened by one species, the effects appear at all levels. Salmon reduction has led to the smaller fish populations have grown which the salmon feeds on. These small fish in turn feed on zooplankton, which is consequently reduced. Zooplankton consumes phytoplankton, the amount of which will therefore grow and rampant the sea.

For the recovery of wild salmon stocks, the Baltic salmon fisheries policy has a very important role. Naturally, when fishing at sea, it cannot be determined which stocks are being fished. As a result, all available stocks are being caught from. Whereas, when fishing at a river one can choose to fish only at those rivers where the stock populations are healthy, and not at those where the stock populations are not as strong. Thus, stock recovery problems can thus be solved by either stopping the joint position of fishing in the main basin and the Gulf of Bothnia, or by setting such low catch quotas, that it also ensures the most vulnerable salmon populations to recover. Migratory fish of the joint position of fishing is the key. If fishing continues as it is and the river-specified protection measures have no effect, the spawning fish do not get to return to their home rivers from their migrations at sea.

In the recent years Sweden has begun to actively revive its salmon stocks. It has banned the much discussed long line fishing that has been debated upon in Finland as well. In principle, the oceans are open and nobody owns any wild fish until it's caught. Therefore, the salmon that a Finnish fisherman had to miss due the quotas might end up, say, to be caught by a Polish fisherman. Baltic fishery policy is therefore a common interest for all of the Baltic Sea countries. None of the Baltic countries can take care of the salmon stocks alone. It requires extensive cooperation within the EU's fishing policy, uniform regulations and adequate supervision.

The WWF estimates, that half of the fish imported to the EU is illegally-caught. Illegal fishery has far-reaching impacts on for instance the deprivation of the poor countries as it kills their own fishing industry. Nature is being harmed through aggressive fishing methods. Fishermen in poor African countries have been robbed of their source of livelihood by illegal fishery and they have been subjected to a cheap labor force. Therefore, the EU's Common Fisheries Policy is closely linked to the world's trade and environmental policies and human rights issues as well.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy is designed to ensure that the fishing will become biologically, economically and socially more sustainable. Currently, the implementation of the objectives is not at a satisfactory level within the EU's internal seas and, in particular, on the imported fish. The most important means to achieve the set objectives for the EU's internal waters are the catch and effort limits. As a rule, these elements must be based on the use of fish stocks in the multi-annual management plans and comply with the scientific recommendations.

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