There are more than 20,000 species of fish in the world. According to an estimate, there are 75 species of fish and Cyclostomata in Estonia, 44 of whom live in fresh water, with the rest being migratory fish (salmon, sea trout) and semi-migratory fish (vimba, ide, common whitefish).The strategic goal of fisheries is to guarantee the good condition of fish populations and the diversity of fish species.
It is vital to avoid the negative effect fishing has on the ecosystem. Fish populations are considered to be in good condition when fish resources can reproduce themselves naturally in the existing environmental conditions and when the species have a characteristic age structure despite the pressure of commercial fishing.
Prudent conduct regarding fish resources shall be considered as follows: not fishing undersized specimens, not damaging the fishes’ habitat and not disturbing the spawning and nesting period.
Most of the fishing is regulated internationally. Calculation of exploitation rates on the Baltic Sea differentiates between highly and less migratory fish. Fishing quota on highly migratory fish (sprat, Baltic herring, Atlantic cod, salmon) are established by the Council of the European Union. International closed seasons have been established for some species of fish. Less migratory fish (European perch, zander, etc.) are managed by the states themselves. All limitations are based on scientific advice.
Stocking of fish
Many species of fish (salmon, eel, sea trout) are threatened because of over-exploitation or lack of suitable reproduction areas and habitats as well as their natural reproductive capacity being too low. In order to restore or reinforce their natural populations, young fish are being reared in fish farms.
The fish farming department of RMK Põlula is responsible for farming fish for Estonia. The main species grown and restocked are salmon and eel. Other restocked fishes include sea trout, asp, pike perch, tench, common carp, northern pike and crayfish, although the number of these restocked fishes is small.
To restore and maintain the good condition of fish stocks and manage sustainable fishing, the following measures have been implemented:
- The foundation for the systematic recovery of fish stocks in fish farms has been laid;
- The principles of the EU Common Fisheries Policy has been implemented and the fishing legislation has been coordinated with the EU legislation;
- The definitions, rights and obligations of commercial fishermen and recreational fishermen have been structured according to the national legislation;
- The traditional fishing opportunities have been consolidated and enlarged for Estonian fishermen;
- A common fisheries online database has been implemented, improving the surveillance on illegal fishing and the marketing of caught fish;
- By opening fish ladders to spawning grounds on the barrages of rivers highly important to fisheries and thereby enlarging the fishes’ habitat, a project improving the ecological quality of bodies of water has been initiated to resolve the issues of impeding the migration routes of highly migratory fishes;
- The systematic mapping and assessment of spawning grounds has been initiated along with defining the development of recreational fishing.