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Estonia: Fish is far more than just a natural resource
Friday, 20 April 2012 00:00

Despite the difficult economic conditions in the fisheries world in 2011 the Estonian fisheries sector has managed to hold its own and promote the sustainable development of fishing industry within Estonia’s economy. The key to surviving the crisis, says Valdur Noormagi, Chairman of the Estonian Association of Fishery, was the focus on export markets and on maximum added value. This means ensuring the fish reaches the processing facilities quickly and in excellent condition.

Estonia is among the elite of the European fish industry and is trying to reinforce its position. Fisheries policy in Europe, feels Mr Noormagi, has only been based on fish as a natural resource whereas the integral development of the sector from fishing to promoting the consumption of fish as a healthy food product has been neglected. The whole chain is closely connected and requires planning, quick decisions, and the clear identification of responsibility in specific situations.

Referring to the negotiations over fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea for 2012, held in Luxembourg, Mr Noormagi says they concluded with a situation where five out of the eight countries situated by the Baltic Sea did not accept the quota cut-backs proposed by the EU president and fisheries commissioner, which significantly exceeded the cut-backs recommended by scientists. Constant changes in the fishery-related legislation have led to a lack of economic stability in the fisheries sector. The value chain “from fish as raw material to fish as food” calls for accurate administration and shortcomings in this area reduce the incomes of fishermen and facilitate the development of a black market in the sector.

“As the head of the Estonian Association of Fishery, I dare to claim that years from now the European fisheries sector will be more integrated than ever before,” predicts Mr Noormagi. Now, the interests of the people related to fishery in the countries of the European Union are divided. He thinks that countries will cooperate more in the implementation of an integrated fisheries policy than they have been so far, and the role of the European Union as a leader and opinion-maker in fisheries will strengthen. “The key to our success lies in unity, ambitious soloists will not survive,” he says.