Fishing techniques in many commercial freshwater fisheries are focus on the most valuable fish, for example gill net fishing targeting big predatory species. However, this is considered by many scientists to have a negative impact on lake ecosystems and fish stocks. Fishermen in the Lapland FLAG have developed various fishing techniques for different fish species and seasons, including box capture, that allow the captured fish to swim freely, instead of getting entangled in the net. This makes it possible to release the fish that are too small or protected by legislation, and the quality of fish remains very high. Such gear can also help to rehabilitate water ecosystems at risk of eutrophication by removing small plankton feeders and other detrimental fish. They also protect the catch from being stolen.
The main goal of the Fishing Intelligently (FIN) project was the promotion of these environmentally friendly methods of freshwater fishing through exchange of experience and good practices between the Lapland FLAG (Finland) and two Polish FLAGs: Zegrze Lagoon and Masurian Sea, with the support of the Polish Anglers’ Association. As a result, the fishermen in Poland expect to get better fish quality and increased profits, improved water quality and a better image of fishing as a sustainable activity. The project has involved training eight Polish fishermen in Finland, who have subsequently started training more fishermen in Poland. The purchase of the special fishing gear, adapted to the Polish freshwater fisheries, is envisaged along with a conference, brochure and leaflet to disseminate the results in Poland and nearby countries.
Environment-friendly fishing techniques can be applied anywhere in freshwater fisheries. They are of particular value in areas with high nutrients content in waters (eutrophic waters). Some adjustments of the gear may be necessary to make it fit to different local water bodies.
Lessons: Understanding and appreciation of the value of environment-friendly fishing techniques by Polish partners was a prerequisite for launching the project. Reconciling the formal financial support requirements and project deadlines with technical requirements (fishing activities are highly dependent on seasons) required effectiveness of FLAG staff. Previous cooperation between Polish and Finnish FLAGs was helpful in meeting all challenges. The time period allowed for obtaining the special fishing gear and adapting its construction to different kinds of waters took longer than expected, as the manufacturers are small firms with limited production capacity. They also often specialize in one type of gear, hence the purchase of a full set of fishing gear can require procurement from more than one producer.
Contribution to CLLD objective: c) enhancing and capitalising on the environmental assets