Underused domestic fish can help the Baltic Sea to recover and provide a new sustainable protein source

The Baltic Sea suffers from an excess amount of nutrients (eutrophication) which affects the delicate ecosystem of fish stocks, marine life and overall water quality. While we have been able to find solutions to decrease nutrient loading from land, we need to urgently tackle excess nutrients that have accumulated in the Baltic Sea during the past decades.

Fishing is an effective large-scale method to recycle nutrients from the Baltic Sea to land and helps improve the health of eutrophied waters. In Finland, fishing reduces annually 700 tons of phosphorus from watercourses, which is more than two times the country’s phosphorus reduction target from land-based sources under the Baltic Sea marine protection agreement.

Cyprinid fish, such as bream and roach, thrive in eutrophied waters and are found in excess in the Baltic Sea. While the cyprinid fish is both healthy and tasty, there no longer is a tradition of eating it in many Baltic Sea countries.

Finland has taken a head start in fishing cyprinid fish for human consumption. In 2015, the John Nurminen Foundation (JNF) launched a project to commercialize cyprinid fish from the Baltic Sea for human consumption. First commercial bream products were on the market in 2017.

“We are excited to pilot this project in Sweden as we have seen the successful results from the project in Finland. Besides being a very cost-efficient measure to combat eutrophication, it provides a new revenue stream for local fisheries and a healthy and sustainable local protein source to end consumers. It is also a great pleasure to be cooperating with our Finnish colleagues and learn from each other and build on successful projects, rather than work in silos”, says Peter Wiwen-Nilsson, CEO of Race For The Baltic.

Following the project’s great success, Finnish and Swedish organizations including Race For The Baltic, Guldhaven Pelagiska, Rädda Lumparn, Ålands Fiskarförbund and JNF have decided to expand management fishing to Åland and Sweden. The Baltic Fish project is financed by the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) Trust Fund.

“This is an innovative, action-oriented project and it enhances cooperation between Finnish and Swedish partners to improve the ecological state of the Baltic Sea. Therefore the project fits well under the mandate of the BSAP Fund, which grant finances new type of projects that have a positive impact on the Baltic Sea”, says Anja Nystén, Senior Manager at NEFCO and Fund Manager of the BSAP Fund.

“We are very pleased about Sweden and Åland Islands coming onboard. Eating sustainably caught Baltic wild fish, and especially underused species, benefits the sea and is a climate-friendly food choice. Moreover, by creating income for local fisheries, we help to maintain the traditional livelihood of coastal fishing, which is an integral part of the Swedish and Finnish archipelago culture”, says Marjukka Porvari, Director of the Baltic Sea projects at JNF.

The Baltic Fish project will work closely with local authorities to create rules for sustainable management fishing, monitor fishing practices as well as ensure all health aspects for human consumption. Moreover, the project will collaborate with commercial producers and partners to establish well-functioning production chains and commercialization of the products. The first products are expected to be available for Swedish consumers in 2020.

“This project gives us an excellent opportunity to launch sustainably sourced local fish products into the Swedish market and to meet increasing consumer demands for environmentally friendly seafood. By taking care of the entire production chain from fishery to finished product we have the opportunity to create exactly the kind of products that our customers are looking for. In this way we also support Sweden’s sustainable food strategy and provide opportunities for a new generation of fishermen”, says Teija Aho, CEO of Guldhaven Pelagiska AB.

Further information

Race For The Baltic
Race For The Baltic is a non-profit foundation founded by Zennström Philanthropies. The Foundation’s mission is to improve the health of the Baltic Sea by focusing on cost effective solution-oriented projects that show the greatest potential to improve the state of the Baltic Sea.

Emma Gabrielsson
Project Manager
Race For The Baltic

John Nurminen Foundation
Founded in 1992, the purpose of the John Nurminen Foundation is to save the Baltic Sea and its heritage to future generations. The Foundation has been awarded for its work as a communicator of information and producer of marine content. The goal of the Foundation’s Clean Baltic Sea projects is to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea with tangible measures that will reduce the load and environmental risks directed at the sea. Our work is steered by measurable results and impact. www.johnnurmisensaatio.fi

Marjukka Porvari
Director of the Clean Baltic Sea projects
John Nurminen Foundation

Maija Salmiovirta
Project manager
John Nurminen Foundation

Guldhaven Pelagiska AB
Guldhaven Pelagiska is a private company located in Kalix, specialized both in fishing and fish processing from local fisheries in the Bothnian Bay.

Teija Aho
Guldhaven Pelagiska AB

Rädda Lumparn
The Rädda Lumparn association was founded in 2014 by people living around Lumparn, that were worried about their local waters, namely Lumparn and its bays. The association’s goal is to improve the water quality in Lumparn and its bays, increase know-how and interest for local water protection work, support management fishing initiave as well as recreation possibilities.

Carina Aaltonen
Vice chair
Association Rädda Lumparn

Ålands Fiskarförbund
Ålands Fiskeriförbund is an association of local fishermen at the Åland Islands.

Fredrik Lundberg
Ålands Fiskarförbund

NEFCO is an international financial institution (IFI) established in 1990 by the five Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, with the aim of having a positive impact on the climate and environment in a cost-efficient way. Focusing on small and medium-sized projects with tangible results, NEFCO provides high additionality to governments, co-financiers and customers. Over the years, NEFCO has financed more than 1,000 private and public sector projects across different sectors in 80 countries, with a strong focus on Eastern Europe, the Baltic Sea, and the Arctic and Barents Regions. NEFCO’s headquarters is located in Helsinki, Finland.  www.nefco.org

Anja Nystén
Senior Manager, Fund Manager of the BSAP Fund