The FLAG is located in the Masurian Lakes region in north-eastern Poland. This area has a very high number of lakes – over 300, with a total surface of over 27 000 hectares, including the largest Polish lake, Śniardwy. Inland fishing is an important sector, with five large producers combining fish farming with the sale of angling permits. The total fish production in the area is 372.5 tons per year: this includes mainly carp, bream, roach, and vendace, as well as highly-valued species such as eel, pike, perch and pikeperch. Most of the fish is sold locally to locals and tourists.
Until recently, the economy of the area was focused mainly on tourism, but this has led to too much dependence on a single sector and high seasonality of incomes, which resulted in depopulation and economic decline. An additional challenge is the deterioration of water quality, which raises the costs of fish farming and discourages anglers.
The Masurian Landscape Park covers nearly 54 000 ha of the FLAG area, including over 18 000 ha of lakes; there are also 16 natural reserves and many Natura 2000 areas.
To address the challenge of excessive dependence on a single sector (tourism), the FLAG strategy will support diversification of the economy and increasing incomes, both within and outside the fisheries sector.
They also hope to support new technologies in fish production and the development of products and services based on local assets, including high quality fish products (although fish producers are concerned about the high sanitary requirements they must meet). The FLAG also aims to increase environmental awareness in the area.
The FLAG also accesses EAFRD funding (LEADER) which will be used mainly to develop entrepreneurship (new and existing business development) and create jobs. There will also be some projects to develop non-commercial infrastructure for culture and tourism, to maintain and promote cultural heritage and increase environmental awareness.
There will be calls for projects, the first calls are planned in the first quarter of 2017.
19 entities represent the public sector, including municipalities, counties, research institutes, and cultural institutions. The largest number of FLAG members comes from the social sector (76 partners, of which 56 are individuals, the others are NGOs, churches, farmers’ organisations etc.). The business sector (26 members) is represented mainly by SMEs, as well as fishermen and farmers.