Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund introduced the idea of support for local fisheries communities to combat some of the challenges they are facing and build a sustainable future. The funds are managed by Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), partnerships between local fishermen and others involved in the fisheries sector and other stakeholders, such as representatives from local authorities and civil society organisations. Together they design a strategy intended to generate greater social, economic and environmental welfare, create jobs, and make the fishing and related sectors more competitive. Across the EU over 10,000 projects were launched with Axis 4 support between 2007 and 2013.
Poland invests heavily in FLAGs
Despite a relatively modest fishing sector Poland had by far the biggest Axis 4 budget in the EU at EUR235m and way ahead of the second largest budget (Romania, EUR75m). The Polish fishing industry is an important source of employment in coastal communities and local inland areas, where freshwater fish production provides an income to commercial fishers, fish farmers, and to some extent also to anglers.
Among the FLAGs that were formed under Axis 4 was Bytow Lakeland, which covers 11 municipalities in the Pomorskie province, one of the three coastal provinces in Poland. The municipalities are contiguous, with a landscape that includes forests, meadows and farmland, but also an extensive network of water bodies – ponds, reservoirs, lakes, streams and rivers. These host a number of species of fish and support commercial freshwater fisheries, recreational angling, and provide the water for aquaculture farms producing trout. Since it was established in 2009 Bytow Lakeland has launched several projects under four broad categories, strengthening competitiveness, diversification, value addition, and environmental protection. In addition to the municipalities the FLAG’s members include other public bodies such as schools and community centres; private industry; and NGOs and associations.
Children are taught about nature
The objectives of Bytow Lakeland include the creation of awareness about nature and its importance, among school students. To achieve this, Władysław Pędziwiatr, the president of Bytow Lakeland, has initiated a cooperation with a Danish organisation that has experience in teaching young people about nature and natural phenomena using hands-on methods. Following this, Mr Pędziwiatr would like to build a laboratory where children can come and discover, research, and analyse, nature. This knowledge will lead to an appreciation of nature and the importance of conserving it, he says, and children can take this information back home and educate their parents and siblings as well. Bytow Lakeland is currently working on a project for the purchase of educational equipment including a multimedia board and games to help understand and reinforce knowledge about aquaculture and ecology, among school-going pupils. The natural beauty of the area and the variety of activities on offer attract tourists in large numbers in summer including families with young children, who can also benefit from the facilities that are being established. Another user group is children from local schools that organise school trips to the area.
Bytow Lakeland improves infrastructure for the benefit of locals and tourists
In the last programming period (2007-2013) expanding infrastructure to benefit tourism was supported by the EFF and many of the organisations in Bytow Lakeland are related to tourism, says Mr Pędziwiatr. The EFF was also highly supportive of inititatives intended to increase the competitiveness of areas dependent on fisheries, which led to projects that improved infrastructure in the area making it more attractive both for locals and for tourists. The support was administered at three levels, the ministry, the region, and the FLAGs, but there was a close level of cooperation between all three levels. FLAGs also cooperate amongst themselves. For example, nine FLAGs, all from the Pomorskie province, but with different areas of focus, such as deep sea fishing, Baltic sea fishing, ecological education, etc. contributed to the development of a centre for education and promotion, which houses the Bytow Lakeland secretariat.
A further example of cooperation between FLAGs is based on a former fishermen’s organisation called, in Polish, a maszoperia, and that would, for example, take care of the family of a fisherman if he died or became incapable of fishing. This is not relevant in today’s Poland, but the spirit of the maszoperia in terms of solidarity and fraternity persist in the FLAG. When the support applied for by the FLAG exceeded the available resources the FLAG decided to reduce the amount of support applied for by each project rather than eliminating some projects altogether.
|FLAG Bytow Lakeland|
Ul Szkolna 4
Tel.: +48 59 8221250
Fax.: +48 59 8221259
President: Władysław Pędziwiatr
New project ideas currently being sought
Pomorskie province received altogether EUR75m in the previous programming period, whereas in the current programming period it is EUR21m. The range of activities eligible for support has also changed, which may have been influenced by the fact that across the EU results from some FLAGs were not impressive and they are now no longer operating. At the moment, the Bytow Lakeland FLAG is writing the strategy for the new programming period. Once the strategy is approved the emphasis will switch to developing projects that will fit the strategy and which will benefit society at large. These will be on tourism, water, fishermen and cultural heritage.