by Thomas Jensen
  • Capital: Tallinn
  • Population: 1.33 million (2022, Statistics Estonia)
  • GDP: €36.2 billion (2022, Eurostat)
  • GDP/capita: €27 170 (2022, Eurostat)

Overview of the Estonian fisheries and aquaculture sector

Fisheries sectorEST Fish

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 marine capture fishery sector includes distant water fishing in the Northwest and Northeast Atlantic, and trawl and coastal fishing in the Baltic Sea. In 2022, there were 2,002 fishing vessels, and the total marine catch amounted to 71,231 tonnes.

The distant water fleet comprised 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. The fleet yielded 22% of Estonia’s total marine catch volumes. 

The fishery in the Baltic Sea is divided into the marine trawl fishery and the coastal fishery. The marine trawl fishery in 2022 consisted of 29 vessels and contributed almost 65% (46,238 tonnes) of the total marine capture value. This fishery targets both sprat and Baltic herring, which represent about 95% of the Baltic Sea catches; other species captured include European smelt and eelpout.

The number of coastal fleet vessels in 2022 was 1,968, and the catch amounted to 9,311 tonnes. The gear commonly used comprises different kinds of passive gears such as traps and gill nets. The marine areas where the fishers operate include Pärnu Bay, Gulf of Finland, Gulf of Riga, the Väinameri Sea, and the Central Baltic near the Saaremaa and Hiiumaa islands. The most important fish species targeted by the coastal fishing sector are Baltic herring (over 73% of the total coastal catch) perch, and smelt, with marginal volumes of roach and garfish.

Commercial fishing in inland waters is centered predominantly on Lake Peipus. This lake annually provides up to 90% (2,172 tonnes in 2022) of all the inland water commercial fishery. Lake Võrtsjärv is the next most important inland water body with about 5% of the catch. The remainder is divided between several lakes and rivers. European perch, pike perch, and freshwater bream are the main species caught, and nets, traps, pound nets, and Danish seines are the main fishing gears. In 2022 the catch by inland vessels amounted to 2,630 tonnes. European perch was the largest species with over 32% (847 tonnes) of the total inland catch volumes.


EST Aqua

All aquaculture production in Estonia is derived from freshwater ponds, flow-through systems, and recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS). The aquaculture sector is constrained by climatic conditions in the northern latitudes, which have short periods of vegetation growth, below-zero temperatures in winter, and cold water.

Rainbow trout is the largest species farmed in Estonia, while other species include crayfish, tench, European eel, African catfish, carp, wels catfish, Siberian and Russian sturgeon, and grass carp among others.


In 2021 there were 30 enterprises in the aquaculture sector, divided evenly between trout and crayfish farms, though some farmers cultivate both species or have multiple production profiles.  Farming of fish for human consumption is often combined with the provision of fishing tourism opportunities in freshwater ponds and related services, or with juvenile production for restocking.

Aquaculture production in 2022 reached over 800 tonnes worth over 4.9 million euros. Trout led the total production both in terms of volume and value, reaching over 678 tonnes worth nearly 3.9 million euros. The production of crayfish amounted to 0.6 tonnes, far below the highest production level reached by Estonian farmers (almost 2 tonnes in 2009). Fish roe placed on the market amounted to 2.7 tonnes worth over €100 thousand, which was the lowest volume in 10 years.

Processing and trade

EST Proc

The volumes of processed fish and seafood in 2022 amounted to 101.4 thousand tonnes worth € 152.4 million. As in previous years, frozen whole fish (both marine and freshwater) was the largest product group and its volumes reached over 65% of the sector’s total output, while the value was over 30%. Other major products were fish fillets in batter or breadcrumbs including fish fingers, followed by fresh fillets, smoked fish, and canned products made of sardines, sardinella, brisling and sprats, whole or in pieces. A large share of the product range is sold in the domestic market. According to the national statistics, in 2021 Estonia’s fish processing sector employed 1,350 persons (full-time equivalent) across 79 enterprises, of which 46 were small companies with 9 employees as a maximum.

In 2022, Estonia’s fish exports totalled 109,061 tonnes worth € 229.7 million. Whole frozen fish was the largest export item with 57% of the total volume and over 21% of value, followed by prepared and preserved fish with 12% of the volume and 14% of the value. Fresh and frozen fish fillets made up 6.3% in terms of volume, but 21% in terms of value. Export of crustaceans, excluding prepared and preserved, amounted to 10% of the volume, and 19% of the value. Fishmeal and fish oil unfit for human consumption reached over 8% in volume and almost 6% in value. Export volumes to the EU countries equalled 40% of the total fish and seafood exports, while the values made up to 60%. The largest export market was Ukraine both for the volume (32%) and for the value (10%). Other important destinations for export volumes were Belarus, Latvia, and Lithuania, while Sweden, China, and Denmark were the most important in terms of revenue. The largest volumes belonged to small pelagics – mainly herring and sprat, whereas the highest values – to cold-water prawns.

In 2022, imports totalled €191.1 million and 64,939 tonnes. The vast majority of imports come from EU member states (about 80% in both volume and value). The leading seafood exporters to Estonia were Finland, Lithuania, and Sweden. Whole fresh fish was the largest imported item with 49% of the total volume and 35% of the value. Whole frozen fish was the next largest item for the volume with 19% and 8% value, followed by fish fillets with 14% in volume and over 22% in value. Among the frozen fish, imports into Estonia are mainly salmon, herring, and sprat, while the fresh fish are mainly salmon, trout, and sprats.


Sources indicate that consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products amounted to 14.6 kg in 2020 which is 39% below the EU average. The most popular species are salmon, trout, Atlantic and Baltic herring, and sprat. Consumers prefer to buy the fish in fresh or smoked form.

Useful Links for Estonia

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.

You may also like