A belief in the future among commercial fishing companies in the Västerbotten region of Sweden

 

I spent most of my summer holidays cruising with my faithful old servant, a Square Meter Yacht that safely brought me across the Kvarken to Sweden, down to the High Coast and up to Skellefteå harbor and Bjuröklubb nature reserve. My return saw me sailing across the southern portion of the Gulf of Bothnia back to Finland, first to the Tankar lighthouse outside of Kokkola and then back to my home harbor, Oxkangar, located in the municipality of Vörå. During these weeks I came into contact with several interesting commercial fishing companies that were investing in new ideas and technology, and I made the decision to acquaint myself further with these companies at a later date.

 

Two of the companies that I absolutely wanted to visit and interview were new enterprises located in the Västerbotten region of Sweden: Bredvikens fisk in Obbola (http://www.unc.se/foretag/visax.php3?id=1202087&narrow=x) and Kvarkenfisk Ab in Rovögern fishing harbor, outside of Täfteå (http://hem.kvarkenfisk.se). Said and done, I booked appointments to visit and traveled across the water, this time with a more public form of transport, RG Line. My goal was to be inspired by and see development opportunities that could be useful and applied in my line of work.

 

Once there I was met with an optimism and belief in the future, I saw entrepreneurs who are engaged in their work and felt an enthusiasm that was easily catching. These entrepreneurs, who have recently significantly invested in their businesses and developed traditional commercial fishing through processing, sales/marketing and tourism, were themselves surprised by the attention their efforts have already garnered.

 

The first company I visited was Bredvikens fisk. Bredvikens fisk first opened its doors in its current form on June 1, 2012 and is primarily run by commercial fisherman Nils-Erik Sjöström together with his wife Stina Sjöström, who is in charge of the company’s shop, located on the Ume River estuary among the red fishing huts in the culturally protected harbor of Byviken.

 

Nils-Erik mainly uses Push-up traps and nets, both for whitefish and salmon. Nils-Erik is pleased with these and maintains that it would have been difficult to continue fishing without Push-up traps. He also uses seal deterrents (sälskrämmor) when fishing and maintains that they work. Stina is in charge of the company’s food preparation kitchen and store. The couple have been surprised by the great interest that their products have received.

 

They sell their fresh fish and fish-based food products in conjunction with Salteriet (“The salt shed”, http://www.gamlasalteriet.se): a variety of fresh fish, pickled herring and whitefish, smoked and gravad fish and various sauces. In addition to these fish products there are sandwich wraps and cold take-away fish dinners available for purchase, which can be enjoyed out on the dock, onboard or at the local beach and swimming area during the summer. Cold drinks, coffee and ice cream are also available for purchase.

 

Salteriet also sells products via a market trailer, bringing fish and other fish products to Umeå and its surrounding areas and even sells at seasonal markets such as Bondens Egen Marknad (“The farmers’ own market”) in Umeå, an annual event that takes place a over a course of Saturdays, and regional Christmas markets.
My next stop was Kvarkenfisk Ab, a new enterprise with new facilities that include a fish receiving station, processing and a store. Kvarkenfisk Ab can be found out at the beautiful Rovögern fishing harbor, approximately 13 km from Täfteå. This company specializes in local fish products sold directly to consumers, either via their store or dockside lunch service; they also work with Norums fisk logistically. In their store they sell both fresh fish and fish products from, for example, whitefish, perch, pike, herring and salmon, depending on the season. They catch their fish in small batches with nets and traps in the northern Kvarken and the fish are brought onto land at their own dock in Rovögern.

 

Kvarkenfisk Ab also offers visiting boats the opportunity to refuel at their dock, and electricity, water and mooring buoys are also available. The company is a member of Närfiskat (http://www.narfiskat.se), a fishing industry initiative to improve consumer information. Gunnar Asplund, Torsten Brännström and Camilla Henriksson are the firebrands behind Kvarkenfisk Ab, and the company also employs seasonal workers during peak times.

 

The purpose of my visit was to gain inspiration and, partially, to network and seek potential business partners for eventual cross-border projects. Above all, the visit left me with the impression that new, positive initiatives, where those involved see and seize upon development opportunities and “ride the wave” of locally produced food, are possible.

 

The same opportunities that I saw in the Västerbotten region of Sweden exist even in Ostrobothnia, and similar enterprises are possible. Of the dozens of fishing harbors along the coast of Ostrobothnia, there are several that have the potential to develop through the introduction of various activities associated with fishing. It is possible to seek development funds from KAG-Coastal Action Group for similar activities, when a connection to commercial fishing on a general level can be demonstrated.

 

Mikael Nygård
KAG-Coastal Action Group

 

 

Aktion Österbotten Enjoys Synergies Between LAG And FLAG

 

LAG Aktion Österbotten’s rural development programme consists of three subareas: LEADER coastal local action group KAG (Kustaktionsgruppen) and villages. Aktion Österbotten is a LAG, a FLAG and the umbrella village organisation in Swedish-speaking Ostrobothnia. We always strive to find synergies between our three pillars to create a strong actor in rural development.

 

International and national visits

 

During the last two weeks of April, Aktion Österbotten was busy – both as a LAG and as a KAG – with international and national visits. The undersigned acted for a week as the host of a group from Swedish LAG Södra Fjällen as of 16 April while coastal action group’s Mikael Nygård was the host of a cooperation meeting in Ostrobothnia on the 17th and 18th of April. Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, all the Finnish fisheries local action groups (FLAGs), the Torniojoki River Valley Fishing Area from Sweden and European visitors from FARNET and ELARD participated in the cooperation meeting. The coastal local action group also had visitors on the 25th and 26th of April from two Swedish fisheries areas: the Biosphere Office of Biosphere Reserve Lake Vänern Archipelago & Mount Kinnekulle and the Lake Vättern Society of Water Conservation.

 

The visit of LAG Södra Fjällen had been planned since the autumn of 2011 when the LAG contacted Anna Pensar of LAG Aktion Österbotten, asking about a the possibility of a meeting about potential cooperation and a study visit in the area. The visit started on Monday evening with a welcoming dinner and an introduction to Aktion Österbotten’s versatile activities. Chairman of the Board Mats Brandt, Executive Director Mathias Högbacka and International Coordinator Anna Pensar bid the visitors welcome on behalf of Aktion Österbotten. The visiting group from LAG Södra Fjällen consisted of Mikael du Bouzet, Stefan Ericsson, Lars-Erik Gråbergs, Sven-Erik Halvarsson- Lill, Jan Larsson, Lena Olsson and Lilian Olsson.

 

Studying Aktion Österbotten´s operating area

 

During the week, we visited both northern and southern parts of Aktion Österbotten’s operating area. We went to the Officer’s Residence at the Fänrik Stål Centre next to the battlefield of Oravais to hear about the development work done there in the form of a project financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the war in 1808– 1809 and the last decisive battle where Sweden lost Finland to Russia as told by Leader Counsellor Britt-Marie Norrgård. Then we continued north towards Uusikaarlepyy to see the Juthbacka Culture Centre and from there further to Pietarsaari and culture café After Eight and the historical Aspegren Garden. The day in southern Ostrobothnia was spent partly at a tomato greenhouse farm in Närpiö and partly in historically interesting idyllic Kristiinankaupunki with its wooden buildings. We visited Martin and Marianne Westerberg’s cucumber farm, and also Jan and Johanna Smith’s tomato farm in Yttermark of Närpiö. We were greeted in Kristiinankaupunki by Ulf Grindgärds of Kristiinankaupunki Tourist Office and our guides around town were Helena
Kari and Aktion Österbotten’s Leader Counsellor Åsa Blomstedt.

 

We spent the 17th of April at the fisheries cooperation meeting in Ostrobothnia to achieve synergies between the fisheries programme and the Leader programme. The day consisted of, for instance, a visit to the Quarken Archipelago Nature Centre Terranova, the Mustasaari fishing port, the Lindeman fish net factory and
Saltkaret observation tower in Svedjehamn of Björkö Island in the heart of the Quarken Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many interesting conversations were had during the day both as we were riding the bus and at dinner hosted by the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia. The last day of LAG Södra Fjällen’s visit was about village action and youth work: Village Agent Jesper Wikström and Helena Höglund-Rusk of the Swedish-Speaking Ostrobothnian Youth League (Svenska
Österbottens Ungdomsförbund, SÖU) described their activities. Many interesting discussions about potential cooperation between Aktion Österbotten and Södra Fjällen took place during the day. We discovered that we have much in common and that there are also many differences and issues we can learn from each other. I have high hopes that we will engage in long-term, fruitful cooperation with many good international projects.

 

Anna Pensar
International Coordinator of
Aktion Österbotten rf

 

Article publsihed in Maaseutu+ magazine, special issue, may 2012

 

 

Finnish FLAGs’ Network Meeting, Vaasa, 17th-18th April 2012

Tuesday 17th April

 

Mikael Nygård welcomed everyone to Vaasa, statistically the sunniest town in Finland (it was snowing). I brought the greetings from the national community-lead local development (CLLD) working groups set by the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Agriculture as well as from the FARNET.

 

The deadline for LAGs to submit their local development strategies (LDS) 2014-20 to the Ministry of Agriculture is the end of the year 2012. The current multi-fund thinking is that every LDS will have a description of rural, fisheries etc. local needs and strategies first on the LAG level, and then for the FLAG purposes (the territory of which may include several LAGs) there will be one “umbrella strategy”. Petri Rannikko told LAGs / FLAGs might have difficulties in integrating multi-fund approach into their LDS because they don’t exactly know the operational borders between the EARDF, EMFF, ESF and ERDF. I promised to raise this question in the next Ministry of Economics CLLD working group meeting on 10th May. The group could perhaps prepare a summary of the available CLLD priorities and measures in the different funds and programs and send it to all Finnish LAGs /FLAGs.

 

The Finnish LAGs are suggesting a more autonomous LEADER governance model for the coming programming period. The suggestion follows the Irish “global grant” model, where both the project funding decisions / contracts and the payments are made on the LAG level. Managing Authority (MA) only plays a supervisory role. The current Finnish model, where the MA makes the funding decisions and payments, suffers from overlapping duties and loss of customer orientation – there are too many administrative persons in too many organizations dealing with the project over its lifespan.

 

The FLAGs were fairly critical towards renewing the governance model. They felt their current governance model works well enough – though in some cases the FLAGs’ project proposals have been turned down by the MA. The coordinators also felt they should maintain their free animator status and avoid a civil servant status. It was concluded, however, that the possible change of the LAG governance model wouldn’t directly affect the FLAGs – they would still have their independent project evaluation and selection committees that only propose and don’t make final decisions on funding nor payments.

 

I was then passing on Monica’s greetings on the topical FARNET activities: the governance case studies process (Peter Ramsden joined our group later the same day for some interviews) and the coming governance seminar in France on 13th-15th November, the coming seminar on environment in Portugal on 4th-6th June and the collection of best practices (Österbotten fish skin project, Kuusamo fish handling centre and Lapland’s fishing tourism training program selected from Finland). Mikael Nygård told they are preparing a DVD on their fish skin tanning project, it will be available in Finnish, Swedish and English.

 

Next it was the turn of the recently appointed Finnish FLAGs’ network coordinator to present himself. Lauri Huhtanen is a young lawyer and economist who has worked for the Ministry before in short-term contracts. His new duties include the preparation work for the new programming period, international affairs and participation in the sector-based working group meetings.

 

Markku Ahonen raised some concerns regarding the on-going renewal of the fisheries legislation. Before commercial fisherman was defined so that he got a minimum of 30 per cent of his income from fisheries. The new law suggests a monetary definition: with a minimum of 8 500 Euros fisheries income one is a commercial fisherman. Markku continued that in Lapland the rural entrepreneurs are often engaged with multiple activities, such as fisheries, reindeer husbandry and tourism. Thus the fisheries part of income might be critically important even though it remained lower than 8 500 Euros a year. More room should be left for local interpretation when defining the commercial fishermen.

 

The discussion continued about the allowed traps, how to access fishing waters in areas where there are lot of privately owned waters and how to support new fishermen to become commercial. It was felt fairly absurd that in the inland and coastal waters under-exploitation situation investment projects to support new start-ups are impossible – from the national rural development program side one can get a minimum 20 per cent investment subsidy practically to any new business start-up, only fisheries is excluded.

 

A two-hour internal FLAGs’ network meeting ended and we opened the doors to the transnational visitors. Three people joined from the Åland FLAG, lead by the Åland LAG Manager Charlotta Solax, and four from the Swedish side of Tornio River valley in North. After introductions the Österbotten LAG, FLAG and fisheries industry were presented. The region has 527 registered fishermen who sell fish. 130 of them are so-called 1st class professional fishermen. Additionally there are 50-100 jobs in traps manufacturing.

 

The program then continued with site visits. We went to the Quark nature centre that presented the uniqueness of this Baltic Unesco World Heritage site, where the land is still gradually raising (1 cm in a year) after the huge pressure of the ice from the last ice age has gone. We then continued to Fjärdskär fishing harbor and Lindeman fishing net manufacturing company. From the Saltkaret bird watching tower on Björkö island we saw the central parts of the Heritage site, the landscape formed and still continuously being formed by the last ice age.

 

Wednesday 18th April

 

The second morning of the gathering was about project presentations and encouraging transnational cooperation. The projects presented from the Österbotten area were “Documenting the fishing in Österbotten” and “Optifish”. Markku Ahonen presented the project called “From selective to non-selective fishing in two large reservoirs in northern Finland” – they had found promising market for the less valuable catch among the local sled dog owners. Teuvo Hatva had a presentation on fisheries investment projects. Börje Rytiniemi from Tornio River valley and Charlotta Solax presented their FLAGs and projects.

 

Anita Storm, a lady behind the fish skin project, lead a workshop on national and transnational cooperation. The workshop was divided into three sub-groups: how to encourage young people to enter fisheries, the role of training and product design and defining the future commercial fishermen.

 

Petri Rinne
FARNET geographic expert

 

 

Fishery Activities in Ostrobothnia in Finland

 

The fishery industry is, at present, a target for intensive development in Ostrobothnia in Finland. Much of this work is not necessary visible for those outside the business because in fishery issues, the mass media generally concentrates on the problems and damages caused by seals and cormorants for professional fishermen, or on the everlasting issue of salmon. Success stories, e.g. tanning of fish skin or fishing for cyprinids and development of bream products, sometimes twinkle with a beam of light.

 

The paradox in the fishery sector is that the consumers like fish food, fish processing industries and trade are doing well but most of this is based on farmed and imported fish. A mere 7% of our fish consumption is from wild fish caught by professional fishermen. We are in this situation now because, in practice, politicians lack any interest in the conditions and circumstances, business or otherwise, of professional fishermen. Instead, the politicians choose to focus on nature conservation and sport fishing because that is where there are votes to attract. Irresponsible, one could certainly think. Finland as a state loses big money by not utilizing the natural resources we have within our own territory and, instead, importing fish for consumers. Not particularly wise in terms of the environment, either.

 

There is an operational programme for fisheries, with the purpose of supporting development in the sector. The funding comes from the European Fisheries Fund, national funds and private financiers. During this current programme period 2007-2013, fisheries have for the first time had the chance to support development within the branch via a system of coastal action groups. These coastal actions groups are analogue to local action groups or Leader groups. Preliminary work in order to get a coastal action group to Ostrobothnia started already in 2004, and in November 2007 the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry appointed Studiefrämjandet i Österbotten (presently Aktion Österbotten) as one of the eight coastal action groups (fishery groups) in Finland. Concrete practical work started in the summer 2008.

 

The KAG coastal action group has provided funding for small-scale development projects and investments in the fishery sector since the autumn 2008. Thus far, a total of 39 development projects have got funding via the coastal action group. The projects have spent close to one million euros in the development of the fishery sector.

 

The coastal action group defined its policy, from the very beginning, so that it would focus on small-scale projects in order for as many actors as possible becoming involved in development work. This goal was a success and in addition to fishery organizations and businesses, many other organizations have been lead partners in different development projects, e.g. educational institutes, business development organizations, adult education centres, municipalities, 4H societies, homestead societies and foundations, etc.

 

One can distinguish different approaches to development in the projects funded by the coastal action group, all falling within the framework for the programme’s priority areas of competence development and cultural heritage. One approach focuses on making use of neglected fish species, e.g. bream and other cyprinids as well as bycatch. Here we can mention, for instance, Optima vocational school’s project for developing new products for institutional kitchens, Novia polytechnic’s investigation of fish guts and bycatch, and Korsholm Adult Education Center´s project on developing the tanning of fish skin. Another approach involves fish as food, and it also contributes to the utilization of neglected fish species. Here we can mention e.g. Dynamo Business Centre’s project called Inshore Fisherman’s Sushi. A major approach deals with fisheries information, both internal and external. We have here had projects for drawing up a strategy for professional fisheries, seminars for actors within the fishery sector, excursions, etc. Most of these projects have been administered by different organizations in the fishery sector. Likewise also projects dealing with different fishing techniques, e.g. developing a combi-fyke and a fish trap for professional use, developing winter fishing and seine-fishing as well as testing the so-called seal pingers. One more approach can be distinguished in the completed projects, viz. focus on youth in a couple of projects implemented by 4H societies.

 

The gain for fishery sector comes from the synergy generated through all the completed development projects and the networks established through the projects. From the fishery business side it is interesting to see all the persons and organizations which now, without any daily contact to fisheries, work to promote its development. We see this involvement as extremely valuable for the industry.

 

Professional fishermen, who struggle with seal and cormorant problems, do not see very much of the results of these projects in their daily work. The object is, however, that the projects which have got funding via the coastal action group, will contribute to professional fisheries having a future. I am also convinced that the fishermen who have participated in one or more of these projects, have got some positive ideas which may take a concrete form later on in their daily work.

 

The interim evaluation of the fisheries operational programme 2007-2013, commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry last year, notes that the new system with fishery groups is valuable. The role of fishery groups in the regional development of fisheries is important and should be reinforced during the last few years of the programme period. The European Union also regards the development of the fisheries sector through local coastal action groups in positive terms, and the proposal for a new fund for maritime and fisheries policy 2014-2020 reinforces this type of locally led innovation.

 

The current programme period will continue a couple of more years which means that good ideas can still get funding via coastal action groups. The work for drafting a new programme for the coming structural fund period 2014-2020 has already started.

 

Guy Svanbäck
executive manager
Ostrobothnian Fisheries Association

 

 

Projekt Optifish attending the fair in Pietarsaari 20-21.11.2010

 

The well-known chef Michael Björklund showed the audience together with the teachers and students from Optima how to make delicious dishes of fish during the fair in Pietarsaari 20-21 November 2010.

 

The visitors were able to taste different products made of fish. Optima owns the project Optifish that aims to develop new products of fishes like bream, roach and pike.

 

Fishskinn seminar with Lotta Rahme

 

On Tuesday November 23rd 2010 a new project started in the Institute for Adults in Korsholm. It´s aim is to increase knowledge about how to take care of fishskinn. Invited as guestlecturer was Lotta Rahme owning a tannery with studio in Sigtuna, Sweden. She has a long experience of traditional fishskinntanning without chemicals. A lot of her knowledge is from the Inuits, Laplanders, Indians and professional tanners. The project will develop products of fishskinn. The project will keep on until the end of September 2011 and is financed by the Coastal Action Group (KAG).

 

Good Start-Up for Coastal Action Group in Ostrobothnia

 

The past year (2009) was quite successful for KAG, the Coastal Action Group in Ostrobothnia. Its work-group recommended a total of 13 projects, some of which are still being assessed for their conformity at the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. The criteria for a project plan to be accepted require that it can be anchored in the confirmed KAG programme and that it complies with the legislation concerning the European Fisheries Fund (EFF). It is gratifying that the various actors are being active and that several project plans are being drafted at this moment.

 

Projects wich have been approved by KAG’s work-group

Several approved development projects focus on the possibility of utilizing wild fish in our coastal waters to a greater extent. One has to work in a creative and innovative manner in order to develop alternative fish products and attract the consumers' attention to the options by contributing to a change of attitude and consumer acceptance on a general level.
Optima Federation of Municipalities and the Support Association for Kilen Homestead Museum are examples of organization which are involved in this work. We, in other words, strive towards the same goals on a wide front. The plan is that we from KAG shall appear in a joint happening where the results are presented for the general public. The first of such happenings is planned at the Ostrobothnian Public Fair on 24-25 April, 2010.
One goal in the KAG programme is to maintain old jobs and create new ones. In order to create new jobs in the fishery branch in the long term, it is important to support the interest of young people. Therefore, it is a positive sign that several 4H clubs have shown interest and applied for project funding from the KAG programme and declared their goal as improving the knowledge and increasing the interest of young people for the fishery business.
Furthermore, manufacturers of fishing gear have been active. There have been many discussions about the possibility of applying for funding via the Coastal Action Group in order to develop fishing technology. The work-group has, so far, shown green light for some projects, viz. Combi-fyke net project run by Österbottens Fiskarförbund (Association of fishermen in Ostrobothnia) as well as an innovative selective fish trap developed by the fishing gear manufacturer Kivikangas Oy. If the development falls out well, the initiative will generate several jobs in the long term.
Österbottens Yrkesfiskare and Österbottens Fiskarförbund have been very active. The winter fishing project, which will start in January, is a good example on how professional fishermen in Ostrobothnia wish to focus on making winter fishing more attractive and profitable. The project aims at contributing to the beneficial development in winter fishing and supplying local markets with more fish in the winter months. One of its aims is also to reinforce faith in the future and improve the image of fishing.
Professional seminars arranged by Österbottens Fiskarförbund is a project series which aims at being a source of information and inspiration for improved knowledge and know-how in the business. The first seminar will take place in February, and Ilona Miglaw's from Svenska Fisk (Swedish organization), for instance, has been invited to speak there. The seminar will deal with fishing in local waters and climate-smart choice of foodstuffs.

 

Cooperation with Foodia and other actors.

A cornerstone in KAG’s strategy is to cooperate and build up networks with organizations which aim at developing sustainable foodstuffs production in the region.
Ab Företagshuset Dynamo Yritystalo Oy runs the Ostrobothnian foodstuffs cluster Foodia. Foodia is a collective resource which aims at maintaining and developing the various production and handling facilities in the foodstuffs branch as well as informing about important changes and trends in the business. Foodia initiates and engages in global activities but also in entrepreneurship which is linked with locally produced foodstuffs. KAG’s representative is a member of Foodia’s reference group. The group discusses common work methods, strategies, synergies and the best possible ways of promoting development. The Foodia groups brings up new ideas for discussion and initiates new projects with develop the foodstuff sector on various levels.
The fishery branch forms an important part of the whole package which the Foodia cluster works with. Fishing and the fishery branch must be closely connected with other development efforts in the foodstuff industry. Fishing cannot and must not become marginalized in the overall development of the foodstuff sector.
The Coastal Action Group also functions as the other national fishery groups’ link towards Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. For instance, KAG participates in regular meetings with actors from the fishery branch in Västerbotten and Norrbotten in Sweden. The next meeting will take place in February 2010 in Vilhelmina in Sweden. Dynamo’s project Qvarkenfood in the Botnia-Atlantica Interreg programme will act as the host.

 

Challenges

The national fishery groups started their operation in October 2008. Starting up a new programme with all its implications, information dissemination and activation for projects has been and still is a challenge for all the parties involved. The possibility of applying for project funding from the Coastal Action Group is, after all, a completely new form of development.
All in all, however, it is motivating to continue the tough work in order to promote and develop the fishery branch. All those interested in project work have here the chance to present good ideas to the work-group or the project manager. We still have time until 2011 (possibly 2013) to prove that all these funds are well-invested euros in our region.

 

Mikael Nygård, project manager/ Coastal Action Group in Ostrobothnia