Population: 5.7 million
GDP: €289 billion
GDP/capita: €50 100
Overview of the Danish fisheries and aquaculture sector
The fishing sector plays an important role in the Danish economy. Fisheries constitute a very important economic activity in specific regions, e.g. in Western and Northern Jutland and on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. Norwegian lobster in the Kattegat and blue mussels in Limfjord are also of significant local importance.
The capture fisheries sector consists of the following three main categories:
- the industrial fishery for fishmeal and fish oil, mainly for sandeel, Norway pout, blue whiting and sprat;
- the pelagic fishery for human consumption, mainly herring and mackerel stored in Cold Sea Water (CSW) tanks and landed whole; and
- the demersal fishery for white fish (cod, hake, haddock, whiting, saithe), flatfish (sole, plaice, flounder, etc.), Norway lobster and deep water prawns.
In 2017, the fishing fleet consisted of 2 203 vessels with a gross tonnage of 68 000 tonnes and a total power of 207 000 KW. A large proportion of the enterprises own a single vessel with the rest owning two to five vessels. Small vessels represent the bulk of the fleet (79%), while vessels longer than 24 metres account for just over 3% yet represent more than 70% of the total gross tonnage. This segment mostly consists of large pelagic trawlers. Around 37% of Danish vessels are less than 12 metres and use set gillnets. The remaining 63% of the fleet is divided between purse seiners and multi-purpose vessels (12), trawlers (1) while nearly 50% is classified as other. The regions of mid and north Jutland have the largest number of vessels registered (54%). They also contributed to the greatest volume of gross tonnage (82%). Significant ports in these regions are Hanstholm, Hirtshals and Skagen. There were 1 657 FTE fishermen in 2016.
In 2017, total catch by Danish vessels in ports equaled 904 436 tonnes with a total value of approximately €460 million. The share of catches for human consumption on average is around 35% of the total and consists of pelagic fish (mainly herring and mackerel), demersal white fish (cod, hake, haddock, whiting, saithe), flatfish (sole, plaice, flounder), lobster, and deepwater prawn.
In Denmark, there are about 500 lakes and ponds, mostly small and shallow. The largest lake, Arresø (41 km²), is located on the island of Zealand. Only two rivers are longer than 100 km, and five are longer than 60 km, with the principal river being Gudenå at 158 km long. The main commercial inland fishing areas in Denmark include Lake Arresø and the estuaries of Ringkøbing Fjord, Nissum Fjord, Limfjord, Randers Fjord and Isefjorden/Roskilde Fjord. There is also limited commercial fishing in 20–30 other lakes and a few rivers.
Inland fishery is distinguished from marine fishery by being “carried out in freshwater,” and professional fishing is distinguished from sport fishing by being “allowed to trade catch”. The main species in inland fisheries are eel, perch, bream, pike, pike-perch, and smelt. Commercial lake fisheries target eel, pike, pike-perch, and perch. There are also some small-scale fisheries for crayfish, mostly in small lakes and ponds. Commercial inland fisheries in Denmark are of minor importance, as catches have declined during the past 20–30 years.
The main species farmed in Denmark is rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss), which constitutes approximately 60% of the total production, which in 2016 amounted to 45 590 tonnes in volume and over €156 million in value. Danish aquaculture production is quite stable over the years.
The production is divided into two segments: land-based farms and sea cages. The tradition of land-based farming dates back to the mid-19th century. The techniques used are ponds, raceways, and recirculation systems producing small portion-size trout. Another important freshwater species is the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), this is farmed in land-based recirculation units. Pike-perch, turbot, and salmon are among the other species farmed. Farmed freshwater fish is produced on 211 farms, of which most are freshwater farms primarily in Jutland. Sea cage farming in Denmark was introduced in the 1970s and now represents 27% of the total trout production. Production has been growing since 2008 and products include both meat and eggs. Around 70% of the farming takes place in the Baltic Sea area. Farming blue mussels on long lines is an activity that started in 2006, and total volumes reached 2 221 tonnes in 2016. Farming takes place mainly in the Limfjord in the northern part of Jutland, but also in the Skagerrak and Kattegat. There were 563 full or part time employees in total in the aquaculture industry in 2017.
Processing and trade
Denmark is a large exporter of fish and seafood, although 80% of Danish exports stay within the EU. Denmark is also a major importer of raw materials that are further processed and then re-exported. Most of the processing facilities are located in northern Jutland close to the major landing sites. The main product presentation forms for 2017 were fresh and frozen fillets, smoked, salted and dried fish, as well as preserved and canned fish. The most important group for this industry is fresh fish or chilled fish products which makes up to 40% of the volume and up to 32% of the total value of processed products. Smoked salmon products cover up to 18% in terms of volume and up to 34% in terms of value. Another significant part of the fish processing sector is fishmeal and fish oil, which accounts for up to 61% of the total volume and up to 83% of the total value of industrial fisheries. The processing sector is important to Denmark as it provides jobs in remote fishing communities. In 2016, the total number of employees in the processing industry was 3 045 across 92 factories, including 6 fishmeal.
In 2017, Denmark imported 1 336 849 tonnes of fish and seafood for a total value of €3.1 billion. Norway was the main source of Danish fisheries imports with 438 029 tonnes. Sweden (175 602 tonnes) and Greenland (143 678 tonnes) are also important suppliers of fish and seafood. Imports arrive from foreign fishing vessels landing their catch in Danish fishing harbors, or they originate from fish landed abroad, which is then brought to Denmark by ship or lorry.
In 2017, exports of fish and seafood reached nearly 1 134 898 tonnes for a total value of €4.1 billion. The majority of the fish and seafood exports from Denmark were destined for EU countries, with Germany as the largest single market, receiving over 182 237 tonnes. Outside of the EU, the largest importer is Norway with total volume of 166 670 tonnes. The main exports included salmon, cod and shrimp. Fishmeal and fish oil, as well as freshwater fish and various shellfish, are of great importance as well.
Consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products in Denmark amounted to 22.9 kg per capita in 2015. This was 1% decrease compared to the previous year. Cod, hake, herring, mackerel and salmon were the most popular species. According to EUMOFA Denmark’s household consumption of fresh products was 7 160 tonnes in 2017 and demand for tinned and smoked products has increased.
Older age classes, 40 to 54 and over 55 years old are the most regular consumers of fish in Denmark. Younger people are consuming considerably less, in fact, compared to the rest of Europe Denmark has one of the lowest numbers of regular consumers in this age bracket.
Future of fisheries and aquaculture
Based on Denmark´s European Maritime and fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme 2014–2020, the key objectives in aquaculture are increasing aquaculture production by 25%, increasing organic production to at least 10% of total production, and increasing the export of aquaculture production by 25%.
One of the aims of the Operational Programme is to reinforce the processing and marketing of fisheries and aquaculture products through innovation, certification, traceability, and other suitable measures. This will strengthen the sector's competitiveness and ensure environmentally sustainable production. For example, the volume of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified aquaculture production is expected to increase significantly through 2020.
Useful Links for Denmark
- Danish Fishing Agency
- Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries
- Danish Seafood Association
- Dansk Akvakultur
- Danish National Fishermens Association
- National Institute of Aquatic Resources
- Innovative Fisheries Management (IFM)