Population: 1.32 million
GDP: €24 billion
GDP/capita: €18 000
Overview of the Estonian fisheries and aquaculture sector
Estonia, facing the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, has a coastline of 3 700 km. This excludes its islands, which number more than 1 500. Estonia’s diverse terrain includes rocky beaches, old-growth forests, and many lakes, the biggest being Lake Peipus. Tallinn is the main commercial port, while Pärnu is the most important fishing port.
The Estonian capture fishery sector includes distant water fishing in the Northwest and Northeast Atlantic, trawl and coastal fishing in the Baltic Sea and inland fisheries. In total, there are 1 590 fishing vessels.
In 2017, the Estonian distant water fleet captures amounted to 79 611.4 tonnes. The distant water fleet comprises five vessels that target northern prawn (Pandalus borealis), Atlantic redfishes (Sebastes spp.), skate, and Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) in the Northwest Atlantic, Northeast Atlantic, and Svalbard. This distant water fleet yielded approximately 18% of the total catch in 2017 (15 135 tonnes).
The fishery in the Baltic Sea is divided into the marine trawl fishery and the coastal fishery. The former contributes approximately 65% of all catches. This fishery targets both sprat and Baltic herring, which represent about 96% of the total catch; other species captured include European perch, smelt, and flounder. There are 35 vessels in the marine trawl fisheries employing about 500 fishers.
Fishing quotas in the coastal area – the small scale fisheries -form about one third of the total Baltic Sea quotas. Total catch of this fisheries was 10 842 tonnes in 2017. The gear commonly used comprises different kinds of passive gears such as traps and gill nets. There are about 1 500 vessels in this fishery, and the sector provides employment to ca. 2 000 fishers, however, fishing is only a part-time occupation for most of them.
Commercial fishing in inland waters focuses predominantly on Lake Peipus. This lake accounts for approximately 88% of all the inland water commercial fishery, or 2 627 tonnes in 2017. Lake Võrtsjärv is the next most important inland water body with 8% of the catch and the remainder is divided between several lakes and rivers. European perch, freshwater bream and pike perch are the main species caught, while nets, traps, pound nets, and Danish seines are the main fishing gears.
Aquaculture production has decreased from a peak of 1 743 tonnes produced in 1989 to 870 tonnes in 2017. All aquaculture production in Estonia is derived from freshwater using ponds, flow-through systems, and recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). The aquaculture sector is constrained by climatic conditions in the northern latitudes, which have short periods of vegetation, below-zero temperatures in winter, and cold water.
There are 25 commercial companies with main activity in European crayfish farming and 33 companies whose main activity is fish farming. Most of them have a multiple production profile. They rear several species simultaneously, producing fish for consumption, offering fishing tourism in freshwater ponds, and producing juveniles for the state restocking programme.
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is the major cultured species (81%). European crayfish production is still in an infant stage. Other farmed species include Arctic char, European eel, African sharptooth catfish, common carp, wels catfish, grass carp and sturgeon (both Siberian and Russian). The latter are mainly used for caviar production. Only 5% of the aquaculture production is exported, mainly European eel and to a lesser extent rainbow trout and European crayfish.
Processing and trade
There are 68 companies involved in the processing and canning of fish, crustaceans, and molluscs which employ some 1 583 people. The processing industry in Estonia processed 51 876 tonnes for the year 2017. Just over 50% of this was frozen saltwater fish (30 923 tonnes), other major products are fish fillets in batter or breadcrumbs including fish fingers, and canned sardines, sardinella, brisling and sprats, whole or in pieces. The value of the processing industry in 2017 was €105 million. A large share of the product range is sold on the domestic market.
Exports totalled approximately €146 million and a little over 100 000 tonnes, of which 39% and 59% respectively is exported to extra EU countries. The largest markets in volume terms are Ukraine, Belarus, Denmark and Finland. while the Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden and Denmark are the largest destinations in terms of value. The main items exported are frozen herring, frozen and canned sprat, and battered fish fillets.
In 2017, imports totalled €129 million and 40 000 tonnes. The vast majority of imports come from EU member states (82% in value and 84% in volume respectively). Major seafood exporters to Estonia are Finland, Sweden and Latvia. Fresh and frozen fish make up 72% of the imports. Among the frozen fish, imports into Estonia are mainly salmon, herring and sprat, while the fresh fish is mainly salmon, trout and sprats.
Sources indicate that consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products amounted to 17.2 kg in 2015 which, though an increase from the previous year of 7.4%, is below the EU average. The most popular species is salmon, trout, Atlantic and Baltic herring and sprat.
Below you can find the "Estonian Fishery 2014-2015" publication produced by the Fisheries Information Center. For more information, you can visit www.kalateave.ee
Useful Links for Estonia
- Statistics Estonia
- Ministry of Rural Affairs
- Fisheries Information Center
- Estonian Association of Fishery
If any of the above listed links do not work or if you have a relevant link to add, please send us an email here.