Sustainable Blue Economy – Fishing, Food Industry and Cross-border Cooperation

Experiences from the Northern Fishing Waters

Markku Vierelä has been a fishing enthusiast for his whole life and has studied fish biology and fisheries in Jyväskylä, Finland. Today, he is working with aquaculture related projects in Wildlife Services unit in Finnish Metsähallitus.

Metsähallitus is a state-owned enterprise that produces environmental services for a diverse customer base; ranging from private individuals to major companies. We sustainably use, manage, and protect state-owned land and water areas and reconcile the different goals of owners, customers, and other stakeholders.

According to Vierelä, the potential of fishing tourism has not yet been fully exploited in Finland. Especially, the amount of travellers from outside Finnish borders is scarce. The various reasons behind this were surveyed in a study conducted by Metsähallitus, and the research revealed a complicated issue. For example, constantly changing regulations, difficulties in getting fishing licences and the fear for overfishing were among the reasons that are limiting tourism around fishing.

As an effort to find solutions to the above-mentioned challenges, Metsähallitus started a pilot project called “Private lake” in 2019 in southwest Lapland. In the experiment a mostly state-owned lake was separated for only the local fishing guides and their customers’ use. The fishing guides were given an access to a calendar through which they were able to make 12–24 hours reservations, during which there would be no other fishing activity on the lake.

Event though the amount of fishing guides participating the experiment has increased, it has proved difficult to expand the pilot to new water areas. The issues in setting common goals and functional regulations, for example, has caused disagreement among the various stakeholder groups around lakes.

Despite the challenges in the Private lake experiment, Vierelä insists that the work for fishing tourism must be continued. He states that Finland has the potential of becoming one of the top tourism destinations for sport fishers. The regional benefits could sum up to tens of millions of euros per year, and most of the income would be directed to the rural areas.

Sweden Food Arena

The goals of Sweden Food Arena is to develop Swedish Food Sector. (Picture: Sweden Food Arena, Kerstin Eriksson)

Even though Sweden is one of the most innovative countries in the world, according to the international innovation ranking, the innovations related to food sector are not as well-represented. Kerstin Eriksson, Innovation Leader in the Sweden Food Arena, calls for change. Her organization has, in fact, set a goal of rising Sweden among the top three countries in the food sector innovation ranking. Through new innovations Sweden Food Arena is also pursuing 50 000 new jobs and a fifty-percent increase in food export.

Sweden Food Arena is a national arena where food industry stakeholders collaborate for an innovative, sustainable, and competitive food sector. The arena is a result of the government’s Food Strategy, which aims to increase production and contribute to a competitive food supply chain, as well as increase employment, exports, innovation power, and profitability while achieving relevant environmental goals.

In order to reach these goals, Eriksson emphasizes the importance of innovations and research concerning blue foods. Blue foods cover the variety of aquatic animals, plants and algae that are often given short shrift in food system policies. Nevertheless, the fact is that sustainable food production on land is not sufficient for feeding 10 billion humans in 2050. Hence, the role of aquaculture is growing rapidly and new methods for sustainable production are needed. Moreover, transparency in the production, expedient legislation, as well as introducing consumers to new kinds of foods is needed, in order to utilize the full potential of blue foods.

Sweden Food Arena has set a goal for paving way for a future strategic innovation program (SIP) for the food sector. Eriksson also claims that cross-border cooperation in the Nordics is essential for creating change. In order to reach the food innovation goals in Sweden, Sweden Food Arena has defined five missions that work as guidelines in the process. The goals are:

  • Mission 1. The world’s most attractive food and drink. Conscious customers around the world choosing Swedish products.
  • Mission 2. Competitive food innovation. Fifty new Swedish food innovations with a combined turnover of EUR 1 billion by 2030 (world’s leading innovation ecosystem).
  • Mission 3. Food and drink for healthier life. An attractive range of healthy and tasty products with proven benefits.
  • Mission 4. A resource-efficient food sector. Developing sustainable production methods, creating profitable and resilient food sector in Sweden.
  • Mission 5. Climate neutral food production by 2045. Reducing carbon footprint throughout the food chain.

Sustainable Value Creation in the Rural Arctic – Cross-border Possibilities

SINTEF is one of Europe’s largest independent research organisation which delivers applied research, innovation, technology development, knowledge and solutions for customers large and small across the world.

SINTEF projects cover all ocean-based industries, such as, maritime, processing, offshore wind, oil and gas, fisheries, environmental technology and undersea. Karl Almås from the Fisheries and New Biomarine Industry department in SINTEF claims that expanding the ocean-based industries would contribute significantly to the worldwide carbon neutrality goals.

Ocean-based industries (Picture: SINTEF Nord, Karl Almås)

As an illustration, there is equally as much potential resources in the oceans, seas and inland waters as there are on land. However, only about two percent of the marine and inland water resources are currently in use, which creates a considerable gap compared to the 98 percent utilization rate of the on land resources.

Therefore, the need for cross-border research and innovation projects is pressing. Almås paints a few examples for cooperation. Firstly, the expanding aquaculture demands for new innovations of how to sustainably produce fish feed. Secondly, we should find new ways to utilize the biochemicals and genetic potential of the oceans, and finally, develop renewable energy sources for fishing vessels.

This blog post is a summary of our Greennovation Camp keynote presentations on 26 Oct 2021. If you would like to see the full presentations, please find all the materials from the event here.

Blogpost by,
Henna Kukkonen, Project Specialist, Lapland University of Applied Sciences