As Vice-Minister responsible for fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Dudutis has plenty on his plate. The impact of the pandemic on the sector, the new operational programme for 2021–2027, the ban on cod fishing, and declining quotas for some pelagic species are just a few of the issues he must contend with. If that were not enough, he also needs to persuade the Lithuanian Parliament of the importance of maintaining the small-scale coastal and inland fishing sector, which is under threat from a proposal that could effectively forbid it.
This article was featured in Eurofish Magazine 3 2021.
Lithuania’s inland waters are home to a number of species of which several are of commercial importance. The most important inland fishery takes place on the Curonian Lagoon, a water body separated from the Baltic sea by the Curonian Spit, but several lakes and rivers also have an inland fishery.
Lithuania’s high seas fishing fleet comprises some 12 vessels, a number which has stayed fairly stable the last few years, but which can also fluctuate depending on fishing opportunities. The fleet has been active in the Northwest and the North East Atlantic, the South Pacific, the EU Western Waters, as well as in the Svalbard fishing area, and the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Morocco, and Greenland.
Lithuanian aquaculture production is predominantly common carp, which amounts to about nine tenths of the output. The remainder comprises a number of species including rainbow trout, other carp varieties, sturgeon, eel, and catfish that are grown in different production systems. Further down the value chain sales of live fish are being replaced with more value-added products in response to changes in consumer demand.
The fish processing sector in Lithuania is based mainly on imported raw materials which are converted into a variety of products both for domestic consumption and for export. Some companies are also using locally-caught and locally-farmed fish to add variety to the range of products they manufacture.
Fisheries plays an important role in the economies of coastal regions throughout Europe. It is therefore vital to exploit the oceans’ aquatic resources sustainably to avoid the depletion of fish stocks, a rusting fishing fleet, unemployed fishermen and seafood shortages.
The Lithuanian fisheries sector has a long historical traditions and is a part of the national heritage in the Baltic Sea coast area. The segment comprises a high seas fleet, a Baltic Sea fleet, and a coastal fleet. There is also a small freshwater fishery in the Curonian lagoon. The aquaculture industry in Lithuania is dynamic and the production of farmed fish has been increasing in terms of both value and volume.
Lina Kujalyte, Vice Minister in the Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture has been responsible for aspects of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy that are only now being implemented, for example, the landing obligation, which in the Baltic Sea came into force at the start of the year. Lithuania also held the chair of BALTFISH, an organisation that brings stakeholders from EU countries around the Baltic Sea together to work out common positions on policies concerning the Baltic. Ms Kujalyte is also a strong proponent of aquaculture, a sector which will receive the largest chunk of funding from Lithuania’s allocation from the EMFF. Here she discusses some of her priorities for the fisheries sector in the country.
The Fisheries Service under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania has established and opened a sea-fisheries and aquaculture laboratory, the construction and modernisation of which were funded by the European Fisheries Fund. The laboratory was created through the Programme of Integrated Science, Studies and Business Centre for the Development of the Lithuanian Maritime Sector.
In Lithuania, a new trend has emerged in the way that aquaculture production is sold to consumers: a few local fish farmers and processors have opened their own retail outlets to sell their products. These specialty shops enable the producers to sell fish directly to consumers, bypassing the typical distributors of supermarkets or fishmongers. Three such businesses who have practiced this retail strategy are JSCs Išlaužo žuvis, Kintai, and Vasaknos. These firms established their shops in response to the growing desire for fresh, local fish shown both in Lithuania and in other EU countries.