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BONUS GOHERR – Integrated governance of Baltic herring & salmon

This multivoiced and interdisciplinary blog reflects our efforts to combine the health of the Baltic Sea with the health of humans, and the ecosystem dynamics with human values and behavior. We the bloggers are doctoral students representing marine biology, environmental policy and sociology. Our blogs bring you news from the GOHERR project and thoughts about related hot topics. The aim of GOHERR is to develop integrated governance framework for Baltic salmon and herring.
14.09.2016 14:30

New dawn rising for Baltic salmon?

Suvi Ignatius

In the post-industrial societies, producing ideas and services has become the main way to create jobs and economic growth instead of producing goods. The implications of this change for the environment are usually seen as positive. However, critics have pointed out that despite of the reduced pollution and resource use caused by fewer factories, also post-industrial societies continue to struggle with resource scarcity and environmental degradation, and in many cases consumption of natural resources is not at a sustainable level. Still, some species and parts of the environment can benefit from the ongoing change in the societal production structure. Baltic salmon, endangered due to damming and pollution of rivers during the 20th century, seems to be among those species.

The River Kymijoki, located in the South Eastern Finland offers a topical example. Earlier it was among the most important salmon rivers of the Baltic Sea, but its original stock was lost in the first half of the 20th century due to construction of hydropower plants, and pollution. From there on, the river was perceived primarily as a power source, particularly for the pulp and paper industry. Recently, however, this perception has started to lose its importance because production lines and even entire factories have been closed in the Kymenlaakso region.

At the same time as the paper and pulp industry has been downsized, the conservation of Baltic salmon has taken steps forward. In the River Kymijoki the dream is to re-establish a naturally spawning salmon stock. Currently, hatchery-reared salmon is stocked to compensate the fishery for the loss of the wild stock. However, since the 1990s fish passes next to hydropower plants have been planned to open ways to spawning grounds for migratory fishes. Supporting natural reproduction is acknowledged to be more ecological and economic a solution than stocking in the long run. 

In the River Kymijoki efforts have concentrated on building a fish pass next to Korkeakoski hydropower plant. However, it took two decades of planning and lobbying until the building of the Korkeakoski fish pass was finally finished. Perhaps the significant structural change in the Kymenlaakso region during the 2000s speeded up the project that is hoped to promote both species conservation as well as fishing opportunities and tourism.

In this case, the shift towards post-industrial society seems actually benefit Baltic salmon, if the pass starts to work. The pass, launched last summer, is estimated to be one of Finland’s biggest in terms of the number of fishes that are expected to use it. However, identification of different expectations and values related to Baltic salmon is crucial to avoid conflicts between stakeholders.

Existing literature indicates that in addition to recreational and conservation values, traditions related to local culture and fishing livelihoods as well as social justice related to allocation of fishing rights are strongly attached to Baltic salmon. Therefore, a dialogue between value-perspectives related to the conservation of salmon stocks, commercial fisheries, recreational fishing and fishing tourism is needed to enable compromises on the use and management of the fishery.

On a larger scale, one also needs to take into account recent neo-productive tendencies in the use of natural resources. For example, in Finland opening of new mines as well as harnessing forests and fields to energy production have been planned. In parallel, there has been a discussion on utilizing hydropower more effectively. Also this perspective needs to be pondered in deliberations about the future use and management of river ecosystems, which are increasingly seen to serve multifunctional purposes.

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