Fisheries LAGs in Finland

Fisheries local action groups i.e. FLAGs, develop fisheries related livelihoods locally with a bottom-up approach. There are 10 FLAGS in Finland and one in Åland. The goal is to support community-oriented development activities based on the region's needs and strengths, by utilizing local expertise and giving people opportunities to participate in the development of their own region and its fisheries.

FLAGs work in conjunction with Leader groups (LAGs). The goal of the Leader groups is the development of the countryside and rural businesses. In Finnish we call FLAGs as Fisheries Leader groups. The purpose of fisheries leader activities is to support the realization of the fund’s goals from a regional point of view. Fisheries leaders finance projects in their regions in accordance with the local strategy. FLAGs can also offer help, for example, in developing ideas, applying for EMFAFF projects, finding networks and other practical matters related to practicing and starting a fishery activities. The activity is open to everyone who is interested in developing the fisheries in their own area.

Special Characteristics of Finnish FLAG Groups

Finnish FLAG groups are not independent organizations. Instead, they operate across several LAG group areas, with one LAG group acting as the lead and managing the FLAG group. Therefore, Finnish FLAG groups do not have a “FLAG-manager” but rather an activator. Typically, each group has only one employee. In some cases, the activator works part-time, and a few groups have two employees.

The areas are usually assembled municipality by municipality, and the municipalities contribute to the operational costs. The municipal contribution varies greatly between groups. Minimum allowed is 10% of total budget.

In Finland, FLAG groups focus strongly on developing economic activities. Cultural and environmental activities receive less attention because they can be funded from other sources. Finding funding for primary production development is particularly challenging.

Most funded projects are various development initiatives. Funding from FLAG groups usually covers about 80% of project costs. Some projects can receive up to 100% support, while private company projects receive around 50% support. A few FLAG groups also fund public investments, such as fish processing equipment for public fishing harbours. The funding framework for FLAG groups for the current program period ranges from just under 500,000 euros to over 800,000 euros.

In addition to funding projects, FLAG groups offer various advisory services to businesses, especially regarding EMFAF investment support.

Lapland FLAG

Area it the northernmost of Finland and includes 4 municipalities around our big lakes where commercial fishing exists. Commercial fishing happens typically with small about 6-meter-long vessels, using nets, fykes and metallic fish traps. We have a long cold winter, and lakes have an ice cover over 6 months. Fishermen and -women are fishing under ice with nets and seines using snowmobiles for transportation. Today we have around 40 professional commercial fishers and more than half of them are fishing all year around.

Tourism has become very important livelihood in Lapland, and we have projects to bring it together with commercial fishing. Climate change in together with some other factors has changed the fish stock. Heat resistant species have profited from the situation. As a daily work Lapland FLAG is helping fishers with investment applications and trying to get new people into the fishing industry. 

Coastal Bothnian Bay FLAG

The operating area of the Fisheries Local Action Group of the Coas- tal Bothnian Bay covers almost 400 km of coastline from Tornio to Kokkola including 14 municipalities. Bothnian Bay is the northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea. The Bothnian Bay covers an area of 36,800 km2 and its average depth is 43m, the deepest point being 147m.

A total of 450 commercial fishermen operate in the area of the FLAG. Of these, around 80 are Group 1 commercial fishermen. The fishermen are ageing. However, the key factor limiting the fishing industry is the abundant and uncontrollably growing population of the ringed seal and grey seal, which are impeding fishing activities and the recruitment of new fishermen for the sector.

Forms of fishing, when there is no ice – trap and gillnet fishing and trawl fishing. In winter, dragnet and net fishing. The main species caught are European whitefish, vendace, Baltic herring, Atlantic salmon and perch. Food fish farming is concentrated in the northern part of the Bothnian Bay. Also more than 20 fish processing companies operate in the area – one of them being the largest in Finland, employing 300 permanent employees.

Kainuu-Koillismaa FLAG

Description pending…

Ostrobothnia FLAG

Description pending…

East Finland FLAG

The East Finland FLAG covers the large lake area of Saimaa located across four eastern provinces of Finland. Summers are rather warm and in winter the lakes are covered with ice. The winter fishing season is approximately four months long. The population density is low, and the number of inhabitants is declining in most parts. Despite this, the area has a large population compared to other FLAGs due to its sheer size – it covers an area larger than Belgium – this is to obtain a critical mass of fishermen to make the group viable.

An active and traditional fishing industry as well as commercial fishing is an important part of the Eastern Finnish identity and way of living. The operation area is extensive although reasonably uniform regarding natural conditions and fishing industry. The operation strategy of the East Finland FLAG for the programming period 2022–2027 is divided into three main themes:

1. Cooperation and networks, 2. A developing and attractive commercial fishing, 3. Promotion of Fishing Tourism  

Our strategy emphasizes the strong commercial fisheries and fishing tourism in the region, in particular, the importance of communication, networking and closer cooperation in the programming period. Water bodies and their condition play a particularly important role in the Eastern Finland region for residents, recreational users and businesses alike.

The aim is to increase interaction between the various actors and to involve them actively and responsibly in the development of the fisheries and the environment. The overarching themes guiding all activities are sustainability in terms of fish stocks, business, the environment and the measures funded, and the use of digital technologies. The aim is to improve the sustainability, attractiveness and profitability of the fishing industry and to improve cooperation between the industry and the owners of the fishing waters.

Central Finland FLAG

Fishing takes place in an extensive area, mostly along the main route of the Kymijoki River. Fishing in this area is reasonably profitable. There are currently around 30 active full-time professional fishermen. Fish farming is also an important source of livelihood with strong traditions in the area. There are also some significant active fish processing companies in the area. Population centres (i.e. the cities of Lahti, Jyväskylä and Kouvola), as well as the fact that the Helsinki metropolitan region is not far away, guarantee a reasonably high and steady demand for fish products. A speciality of the area are strong signal crayfish populations. They offer opportunities but also pose challenges. The most important species fished are vendace (Coregonus albula), pikeperch (Zander lucioperca) and whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus). The key strength is the pure waters and thus the excellent quality of the fish.

The fish stock in many of the local lakes is not utilised to the fullest because people fish less than before.

We have indentified four main fishery challenges in Inland Finland: 1) The size of the area poses challenges for logistics, for example. 2) There is not sufficient infrastructure to support fishery. More processing and production facilities and ice stations are needed, in particular. 3) Small fish species, signal crayfish and devalued fishes are not utilised to the fullest. 4) There are problems with the profitability of fish farming, which have been exacerbated by fish deaths due to unusually warm summers.

Main policies of our FLAG:





Zander Finland FLAG

Founded in 2022, Zander Finland FLAG is running its first funding period in European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF). Our territory covers Tampere region, South Ostrobothnia and Kanta-Häme with its big lakes, rivers and scenic rapids. Including both the most populous, inland city in the Nordic countries and rural areas Zander Finland FLAG develops small scale commercial fishing, fishing tourism and other fisheries related projects of general interest in the heart of the most important urban, economic and cultural centre in the whole of inland Finland.

There are four priorities in the strategy, which the funded projects must fit into: Sustainable local food and services for the consumers; Increasing diversity, clean fishing waters and preparing for climate change and taking into account its effects; Development of fisheries business; New entrepreneurs in the fisheries sector.

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West Finland FLAG

West Finland FLAG is the only FLAG area in Finland that covers both inland and coastal fishing. Along the coast between Merikarvia and Uusikaupunki, there are over 200 fishermen, most of whom practice small-scale coastal fishing using mainly gillnets and fykes. In the inland waters, especially around Lake Pyhäjärvi, there are about 60 fishermen who also use seine nets. The FLAG area has several small fish processing companies and a few larger units. Fish farming in the area has decreased, but a few units still remain.

West Finland FLAG focuses on three main areas: 1. RENEWING FISHERIES Innovate the industry with new tools and methods. Support the use of fish as food by ensuring high-quality raw materials and developing appealing products. 2. WELL-BEING AND EXPERTISE Improve the industry’s image and internal well-being. Focus on the well-being and skills of entrepreneurs. Enhance job retention, safety, and industry reputation. Encourage active and multidisciplinary collaboration. 3. FUTURE OPERATING ENVIRONMENT Develop a supportive, entrepreneur-friendly environment for fisheries. Increase awareness of fisheries as a socially sustainable industry.

Archipelago Sea FLAG

The Archipelago Sea has the world’s largest inland sea archipelago; the landscape is dominated by over 40,000 islands and islets. The total coastline is 12,000 km long. The FLAG region includes both densely populated cities and sparsely populated rural and island areas. Commercial fishing is small-scale coastal fishing using nets and trap nets. Baltic herring is also caught in open waters by trawling. A third of the fish farmed in Finland is produced in the Archipelago Sea. Thanks to commercial fishing and fish farming, an extensive fish processing network has been established in the area. 

The most significant future opportunities can be found in the growing prestige of local production and fish, also as a part of national security of supply. Major problems in the sector are associated with the recruitment of new fishermen and the low profitability of operations. Growing populations of grey seals and cormorants are affecting both fishing and fish farming and are reducing the interest of young people in the sector.

South Coast FLAG

Our area in the Southern coast of Finland spans some 350 km from the city of Hanko in the west to the town of Virolahti in the east, right next to the Russian border. The professional fishing is typically small-scale coastal fishing carried out with fykes and nets. There are 35 registered professional fishermen in the area, plus many hobbyists. It is also the hot spot for sports fishing in the Finnish coast.

The seals and cormorants pose a major threat for the coastal fishing and our FLAG has been in the fore front launching projects locally and internationally to help ease the problem. In addition, we are trying to make people aware of the fishing profession, its state, and the quality products that they produce. The fishing industry is going through changes, but we are eager to help to steer the profession towards an economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable future.

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