Population: 2.8 million
GDP: €41.8 billion
GDP/capita: €14 800
Overview of Lithuania's fisheries and aquaculture sector
Lithuania has a relatively short coastline of only 90 km, and its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea amount to 7 000 km2. Lithuania has significant inland waters covering 2 621 km2, 4% of the country’s territory. There are 2 827 lakes with a surface greater than 0.5 ha (87 359 ha), 1 589 ponds (24 434 ha), and 731 rivers longer than 10km (32 601 ha) including the largest rivers Nemunas and Neris.
Fisheries have a long tradition and plays an important role in small communities in coastal areas. It employs 6 047 full-time workers: 581 in fisheries, 431 in aquaculture, and 5 035 in fish processing. About two thirds of the employees are women who are traditionally employed in the fish processing industry.
Marine fisheries represent the vast majority of the total Lithuanian catch. Total capture for the marine fisheries in 2017 was 72 144 tonnes, which included the Baltic Sea, long-distance ocean and coastal fisheries.
The Lithuanian fleet is divided into 3 segments: small-scale operating in the Baltic Sea coastal area, large-scale operating in the Baltic Sea, and the long-distance fleet that is by far the largest in terms of capacity and economic importance. Lithuania’s fishing fleet numbered 144 in 2017, most being of small coastal fishing vessels under 12 metres long (104), while only 31 fishing vessels operate in the open Baltic Sea. Lithuania has 9 long distance fishing vessels which operate in areas regulated by Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO).
The Baltic Sea marine fishery that also includes the coastal fishery captured 18 865 tonnes of fish. The four main commercial species are cod, herring, sprat and plaice. Although Baltic sprat contributes two thirds of the catch, cod (1 729 tonnes) is important due to its high value. Herring recorded catches of 4 036 tonnes in 2017, 20% less than in 2016. Nearly all the fish landed is used for human consumption.
The operating high-seas fishing fleet contribute the largest share in volume and value to the Lithuanian total catches. Approximately 57% of volume and 90% of value of Lithuanian fish catch in 2017 are from this segment. Targeted species in both the Mauritanian and Moroccan EEZ are Atlantic horse mackerel and chub mackerel. Vessels also operate in the exclusive economic zones of Guinea, and Senegal.
Inland fisheries account for a little under 2% of Lithuania’s total catches. 963 tonnes were captured during 2017 with Curonian Lagoon being the most significant inland fishing area. Targeted species include bream, roach, pike perch and vimba.
The Lithuanian aquaculture sector produced around 4 098 tonnes of fish in 2016. Most of the fish are produced in 9 600 hectares of fish ponds. This method of aquaculture equates to approximately 86% of the total production. The most commonly farmed species is carp, at 80% of all fish farmed. Other farmed species include African catfish, trout and sturgeon. There are 500 people employed in this sector and two thirds dominated by males.
Current trends in Lithuanian aquaculture is to develop organic aquaculture, which currently makes up 26% of total volume and the development of Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) as a farming method.
Most fish produced from aquaculture are consumed within the country, with the remainder exported to markets in Poland and Latvia. There is no marine aquaculture in Lithuania.
Processing and trade
The processing sector is important due to its economic size and employment rate, competing successfully at international level. The large processing sector is export driven, relying on imported raw material. Its markets include both the EU and non-EU countries. There are 51 fish processing companies distributed across almost all the counties. Given its coastal location, Klaipeda is the most significant county. The main species used for processing are herring, cod, and salmon. These are made into a variety of products including frozen, dried, smoked and canned fish. A wide selection of surimi and culinary products is also produced by the processing sector. In 2017, 126 000 tonnes were produced in total with a production value of almost €626 million, representing an increase of 4% in volume and 12.7% in weight compared to 2016.
Most raw materials used by the processing industry are imported, and most of the processed fish is exported. In 2017, Lithuania exported fisheries products to a value of around €590 million and imported fisheries products with a value of around €517 million. Salmon was both the main commercial species imported and exported. The fish processing industry in Lithuania imports fresh salmon from Norway, which is imported through Sweden and exports smoked salmon. This product accounts for 52% of total exports value. Surimi products are also important, representing about 12% of the total export value. The main market is the EU accounting for more than 90% of Lithuanian exports of fishery products in value terms, with Germany, Belgium and Italy as the most important destinations.
There is a growing trend for increased fish consumption. Fish products are popular and present in most supermarkets. Lithuania is one of the largest producers of surimi in the world, a fact referred to as a "Lithuanian Phenomenon". The average annual per capita fish consumption rate is estimated at 20 kilograms in 2017. Wild fish is preferred to farmed fish.
The key challenge for the fishing sector is to develop environmentally sustainable and profitable fisheries by enhancing the competitiveness of fisheries businesses and reducing the impact of fishing on the marine environment.
The aquaculture sector aims to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use in pond aquaculture and closed recirculation systems, developing farming of species that can open new markets and fetch higher prices, while preserving traditional extensive aquaculture and organic production.
The main challenge in the processing industry is improving market organization, increasing profitability to achieve sustainability of the entire market chain, and reducing dependency on imported raw materials.