The East Finland FLAG covers the large lake area of Saimaa located across four eastern provinces of Finland. Summers are rather warm and in winter the lakes are covered with ice. The winter fishing season is approximately four months long. The population density is low, and the number of inhabitants is declining in most parts. Despite this, the area has a large population compared to other FLAGs due to its sheer size- it covers an area larger than Belgium – this is to obtain a critical mass of fishermen in order to make the group viable.
Unemployment rates are rather high by Finnish standards at about 12 -15%. Tourism is a growing industry offering employment opportunities in the fisheries sector and a growing market for local products. There is a great potential to develop fisheries due to the large lake area, underexploited fish stocks, good demand for fish and excellent water quality.
The biggest challenges are a lack of cooperation between entrepreneurs and the need to recruit younger people into fisheries.
There are several national parks and no protected water areas. There are restrictions on some fishing methods to protect Saimaa seals and landlocked salmonid species.
The FLAG strategy aims to:
Projects are to be presented and selected on an ongoing basis.
There are some well-working fishermen’s companies in the primary sector. The FLAG would be interested to promote internationalisation, networking and the implementation of new operational models via co-operation.
The FLAG membership includes 11 LEADER LAGs, 4 regional councils in East Finland, fishermen’s cooperatives and Savonlinna Vocational College (SAMI).