Collaborative fisheries economics as a conservative tool for fishing?

I attended a very interesting seminar in the beginning of September in Tornio, Northern Finland. Nordic Seminar about the Future of the Wild Salmon Stocks in the Baltic Sea was organized by Regional Council of Lapland, Council of Torne Valley, Finnish-Swedish Frontier River Commission and Norrbotten County Administrative Board. The main interest of the seminar was to clarify how to guarantee the salmon spawning in the rives of Bothnian Bay area where the strongest Baltic salmon stocks are located, and ensure there will be enough catch also in the future. One of the biggest questions was where and when salmon should be harvested, how much it should be harvested and by which fisheries: should it be exploited commercially in the sea or let it return to spawn into their home rivers where, in addition to the reproduction, salmon can be beneficial for river and recreational fishery, and also for the fishing tourism?
Wild salmon fishery is quite conflicting due to its migratory nature, and the solutions mitigating the problems should be sought effectively. Jyrki Oikarinen (Fishing Advising Organization of the North Bothnian Bay) gave one suggestion to the situation. He introduced a proposal for the adjustment program of salmon fishery which different organizations in the Bothnian Bay area have negotiated together and which they have delivered to the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The aim of the program is to guarantee the recovery of the salmon stocks in a way it enables the positive development of recreational fishery and tourism in the salmon rivers. To be able to meet this target, the commercial salmon fishery should be at a level that does not threaten the river fishery, but at the same time an opportunity for small-scale coastal fishery is guaranteed. They also propose individual quotas for fishermen. By rationalizing the fishing regulations salmon could not only be protected, but the fishery could also be economically more sensible. The unit price from salmon could be higher when the fishermen can better choose when to harvest.
Economic and conservative goals often go hand in hand. From an economical viewpoint regarding also the future benefits, it may be quite beneficial to let the great majority of the salmon return to their home rivers. According to a presentation by Soile Kulmala (Finnish Environment Institute SYKE) an economically sound management agreed in cooperation between different salmon harvesting countries could yield 35-55% higher economic net benefits than current management. It means the effort of commercial fishery would decline, but instead the stocks recover and it is possible to harvest with lower costs. Thus, the profitability of fishery increases. At the same time the valuable recreational and sport fishing in the rivers would be secured and the value of the salmon that is not harvested is also taken into account. This kind of shift in the fishery could possibly be done even without too many fishermen having to give up their source of livelihood. The mean age of commercial salmon fishermen is rather high and thus the level of coastal fishery could be adapted to the new level quite easily through retirements.
Salmon stocks are commercially, recreationally and culturally important. All these aspects must be considered and guaranteed in the planning. This requires joint responsibility from different interest groups and thus all the different stakeholders must be heard. The range of the participants at the seminar was very broad including researches or other fisheries experts, commercial fishermen and fishing tourism entrepreneurs and politicians; even European Commission was represented for the first time in this kind of seminar. Päivi Haapasaari (University of Helsinki) has studied the communication between different stakeholders and claimed there is a lack of communication especially between fishermen and scientists. Thus, it is important these kinds of events are held since conflicts easily arise if communication is lacking.
By taking the economic aspects into consideration salmon could not only be protected, but the fishery could also yield higher returns in the long run. This needs agreements between different countries around the Baltic Sea. It is not an easy task but if the research supporting the decision making is conducted in collaboration between different stakeholders and scientists, also between different disciplines, it could be possible to achieve.


By Emmi Nieminen, NorMER PhD student
Published Sep. 21, 2012 3:02 PM