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Cooperation between Europe’s most northerly FLAGs

Two of Europe’s most northerly FLAGs, Tornedalen & Haparanda Archipelago (Sweden) and Gulf of Bothnia (Finland), undertook a study visit to the Northern and Eastern Lapland FLAG area, in the north of Finland, from the 15-17 April.

The visit was hosted by the local FLAG and the Lokka Fishermen’s Cooperative and over the course of the three days the visitors learned about the activities of the cooperative and how it manages to sell fish products from the remote village of Lokka in the north of Finland to markets in the south of the country. They also learned about the benefits in terms of local employment, with whole families sometimes engaged in fishing.

The visit was hosted by the local FLAG and the Lokka Fishermen’s Cooperative and over the course of the three days the visitors learned about the activities of the cooperative and how it manages to sell fish products from the remote village of Lokka in the north of Finland to markets in the south of the country. They also learned about the benefits in terms of local employment, with whole families sometimes engaged in fishing.

Northern and Eastern Lapland is an inland FLAG area, with the reservoirs of Lokka and Porttipahta being the main centres for professional fishing. Perch and pike, and to a lesser extent whitefish, are the most important fish species. 

The village of Lokka (ca. 100 inhabitants), the focal point of the visit, is located on the banks of the Lokka reservoir and about 90 km from the capital of the municipality and the nearest main road. Half of the families there make their living from fishing, and the other half from reindeer herding.

In addition to establishing a successful cooperative, fishermen in Lokka have also developed some new and innovative fishing gear and fish products. To learn more about these, the visiting FLAGs also met with fisherman and fishing gear manufacturer, Veijo Pyhäjärvi, who designed a new and very effective trap for catching perch.

New methods for fishing under ice were also demonstrated for the guests. Fish that caught during these demonstrations were then filleted in Lokka harbor’s fish handling facility by Risto Pyhäjärvi , a fisherman and vice chairman of the FLAG, while Riitta Pyhäjärvi, a member of the cooperative, prepared some local delicacies using Lokka fish, reindeer and wild berries.

Two seminars were held during the visit: one where the FLAGs presented their activities, and a second one where the prospects for further cooperation were discussed.

Importantly, language problems were not a problem for this transnational exchange, as all the participants could speak meänkieli (‘our language’), a northern dialect of Finnish that is also widely spoken in northern Sweden, and also has a status of an official minority language in Sweden.

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