Evaluation of Fisheries Local Action Groups by Natural Resources Institute completed: Special strength of fisheries development is that it is locally based

Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) funded under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) promote and activate the fisheries sector in many European countries. The 10 Finnish FLAGs operate in the most significant fishing regions from the Åland Islands to Lapland. They have opened up opportunities for local people to participate in the development of fisheries in their home region. According to the evaluation of the Natural Resources Institute Finland that has now been completed, the locally based methodology has brought added value to fisheries by introducing new kind of cross-sectoral cooperation and diversifying the funding base of fisheries projects.

Projects lead to action

Between 2014 and 2019 the FLAGs funded 204 projects and the funds used for this amounted to EUR 8 million, which is about 5% of Finland’s total EMFF funding. Most of the funding for FLAG activities comes from the EU and the State. Thanks to the FLAGs, municipalities and private operators have also become better aware of the role and potential of fisheries. Municipalities and private sources have contributed 16% of the funding.

The methodology of FLAGs that is locally based and implements the national targets is well suited to improving the conditions for practising small-scale fisheries, which means that FLAGs have filled in certain gaps and contributed to securing a better future for the fisheries sector. The projects that have been funded often served as first steps towards broader development work and networking that will ensure that the targets set for the FLAGs will eventually be reached. Examples of direct achievements include the master – apprentice projects which have attracted new young people to take up fishing.

There are differences in the characteristics and development needs relating to fisheries in different parts of Finland, which is why the priorities in the strategies of different FLAGs vary as well. Most of the project ideas come from local stakeholders. With respect to their governance, the FLAGs are linked to the regional LEADER associations. This has promoted contacts and activities outside the fisheries sector as well. In inland waters there are fewer conflicts that would cause problems for commercial fishing than in the coastal regions, which has provided a more favourable environment for developing the sector.

Activators promote networking

Most of the activators have been persons who are trusted by the local operators, and often they are also better known in the region than FLAG activities. Activators have built effective networks within the region, with each other and with other rural developers. International networking is also off to a good start. FLAG activators participate in the meetings of the European Fisheries Areas Network and there have been international visits both to and from Finland. In particular, Finnish fisheries benefit from international cooperation with the neighbouring countries that are facing similar challenges. In the Baltic Sea region there has been international cooperation on projects concerning seals and great cormorants. The Finnish FLAG system serves as a good model for the whole network with respect to implementation, performance and cooperation.

Activators help the applicants in the planning and implementation related to application for EMFF funding, but they have also contributed to getting projects funded from other sources started. This work has created new investments in the sector, as well as projects co-funded from the EMFF and rural development funds and networking across sectoral borders. Close cooperation between activators has made it possible to exchange thoughts, ideas and expertise between regions. At the same time good practices and new operating models have been developed, partly in collaboration with the LEADER associations.

Role and brand image

In the fisheries sector FLAGs are considered important, and the general opinion is that their regional coverage should be further expanded. FLAGs are needed to enhance cooperation, transfer of good practices, locally based action and innovation among actors in the sector. However, certain fisheries organisations also consider the role of FLAGs in the sector as somewhat ambiguous and inconsistent. The role of FLAGs and activators and the division of labour between different stakeholders should be clarified.

There is work to be done especially to make the FLAGs that got started during this programming period better known. The Finnish name of the FLAGs is considered difficult and it is often confused with other fisheries associations or organisations. The name should be more easily recognisable and the brand image of the FLAGs should be improved through effective communication. Social media should be used more effectively both in communication between FLAGs and in external communication.

In the next programming period more investments and resources are needed for communication on individual FLAGs and for more extensive coordination. Closer networking of the FLAGs would also enable to make better use of the know-how and expertise of different regions in the national development work.

Pekka Salmi, Kristina Svels and Jari Setälä
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)

Blue Care: combating marginalisation through fisheries

Ostrobothnia FLAG
Southwest Finland

“Take care of the Ocean and the Ocean will take care of you

This project has adapted the concept of Green Care to provide a therapeutic experience through work in an outdoors, marine environment. Getting immersed in the world of fish will, it is hoped, turn some difficult lives around.  

In Ostrobothnia, some 16% of school children are struggling with learning difficulties and low motivation and can often find themselves at risk of marginalisation. And yet, this younger generation is important for the future of the FLAG area, including for the fisheries sector, given its aging workforce. This project aims to tap into the need for fisheries to better engage with young people by offering specially designed working programmes for struggling pupils. The idea is to make their studies more meaningful, as well as offering inspiration for potential careers, such as fishing.

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), is coordinating work between fishermen and three local schools to design a programme for 13 to 15-year-old pupils with learning difficulties. Based on the use of farm work for educational purposes, the coordinator provides a programme outline, which each school then tailors to the specific needs of its children and the timetable possibilities – with input from participating fishermen.

The activity takes place approximately once a week at the harbour and on fishing boats and is designed to fit the school curriculum in, for example, in maths, biology and entrepreneurship. The pupils participate in the fishermen’s land based activities (landing fish, taking care of nets, the boat, and catches and possibly smoking fish) and the fishermen are financially compensated for the service they provide (€35 per hour).

  • Results: The project is still in its early phases but based on the results of similar projects on farms, the project promoter hopes to see improved learning, motivation and energy among the pupils. Indeed, pupils will get to see practical examples of subjects they have learned at school: species of fish studied in Biology, how a business works from their entrepreneurship classes etc. By working together with the fisherman, the children experience the world of work and are expect to finish with a more informed and positive opinion of the local fisheries sector.
  • Transferability: At first glance, this project may appear highly transferable as many coastal areas will have fishermen interested in taking part in this activity and children who could benefit from it. However, school curricula and their flexibility to allow activities like this may vary widely from country to country.

This project focuses on older pupils, but good results have also been achieved on farms with 10-11 year olds. With modification, a similar programme could also be developed for people recovering from burn out, mental illness, depression or for recovering addicts.

  • Lessons: Experience indicates that group sizes should be small as pupils need time to learn at their own pace and get an appropriate amount of attention. Not all pupils do not gain benefit from this type of activity should therefore be selected carefully. The personality of the participating fishermen is also important as not everyone is suited to working with children. Allergies and phobias the children might have is also something to be considered before a visit.
  • Contribution to CLLD objective: Art 63 d) Promoting social well-being and cultural heritage in fisheries areas
  • Key words: Education, intergenerational projects, upskilling, social inclusion,

Total project cost and funding

Total project cost: €39 845

(a) FLAG grant: €31 876 (80% of total project cost)

  • EU contribution (EMFF): €13484
  • Other public contribution (source): €1845

(b) Beneficiary contribution: €7 969 (20% of total project cost)

Project information

Official project title in Member State language:
Blå omsorg (Blue care) –servicemodell för utsatta barn och unga I Österbotten
(Service model for vulnerable children and young people in Ostrobothnia)

Implementation duration: August 2017 – June 2020

Case study date: August 2017

Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke)
Researcher Pia Smeds
+358 29 532 6549

FLAG details
FLAG Ostrobothnia Kustaktionsgruppen
+358 50 465 2565


New fishermen are needed in Lapland

Lapland fish has a strong demand and the market area is Finland as a whole. The reason is that the quality and reputation of the fish produced here is excellent. Also, the popularity of local food and municipal decisions to favor local food produced will increase demand. The demand is now higher than what the fishermen can offer. The reason for this is not the weakness of fish stocks or the difficulty of obtaining quotas, but a decrease in the number of fishermen. Lapland fishermen are looking forward to working with fearless new enthusiasts.

Sodankylä shows an example

There were still 25 full-time fishermen for a dozen years ago. As a result of the retirements, the number has slowly declined and now it is no more than 15. The decline in the number of fishermen started to worry the municipality when they began inquiring from the fishermen co-operative for its ability to supply fisheries products to the central kitchen.

The co-operative proposed to the municipality that new fishermen should be actively recruited, otherwise the municipalitys’ plans to increase the use of local food are on hollow grounds. The municipality took the concerns of fishermen very seriously, and with wide variety of partners began to think about what could be done. The joined forces included the cooperative, the municipality, local public employment and business services, the Sámi Education Center and the Lapland FLAG. Maria Saarinen from Archipelago FLAG also participated in one meeting and told about the experiences of the Livia Vocational Colleges’ master and the apprentice -project.

The joint discussions concluded that before the recruitment begins the manifold requirements of starting commercial fisheries need to be met. The municipality received funding from the FLAG for a preliminary study project, which not only investigated the practical organization of recruitment, but also experimented with informing. The fish school tour, social media and the stories in the traditional media resulted in a surprisingly big amount of contacts. As a result, in Sodankylä’s reservoir lakes employ now three new brisk fishermen.

On the basis of the preliminary project, the municipality and the cooperative felt it was clear that there was a clear need for the actual recruitment project. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry also expressed its support for such activity. Encouraged by this, the project was applied for funding under Article 29 of EMFF. However, this did not succeed, so the municipality turned to the FLAG. The project suited perfectly the group’s development strategy, and the group agreed to fund unanimously.

The recruitment project is now starting, and one has still time to get on board. Experienced fishermen will guide new entrepreneurs in navigating the reservoirs, fishing techniques and fish handling. If necessary, help is also provided in accommodation and paperwork, such as registration to fisherman. For more information, please contact Marjaana Aarnio (040-560 470) from Sodankylä.

Fishermen are neede also elsewhere in Lapland

In the area of ​​the Lapland FLAG there are approved fish processing facilities in Sodankylä, Pello and Inari. Facilities of Kemijärvi are currently being applied of approval. In all of these areas, new enthusiastic entrepreneurs are needed to improve the security of fish supply. For more information, contact the FLAG animator (Markku Ahonen, 040-704 094, markku.ahonen@pll.fi).

Text: Markku Ahonen, Lapland FLAG