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Fisheries Brief No. 1: How big is the fishing industry?

The Fisheries Brief is shorter documents that highlights questions related to the Baltic Sea fisheries.

The Baltic Sea cod stock is headed towards collapse, but proposals for drastic measures are dismissed in order to safeguard the fishing industry. This may therefore be an appropriate juncture to examine the size of the fishing industry.

The table below shows the number of employees and value added in the marine industry.

Hur stor ar fiskenaringen
Source: Statistics Sweden: Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (Sw: Havs- och vattenmyndigheten, “HaV”) report 2017:32.
According to HaV, the figure for ”full-time fishermen” (399) includes only employees of limited companies and other company forms; i.e. the figure does not include private undertakings. If private undertakings are included, there are currently approximately 800 active professional fishermen.

They want to safeguard the fishing industry
Many fish stocks are threatened and are the subject of debate. In the Baltic Sea, the cod occupies a unique position as the largest predatory fish and plays a crucial role in the sea’s ecological balance. Now, as the Baltic Sea cod stock heads towards collapse, drastic decisions need to be taken to protect the cod.

One reason decisions haven’t been taken is that the Swedish and European debates on fish stocks emphasise the need to safeguard the fishing industry. The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) regulates most commercial fishing in the Baltic Sea:
”The EU’s fisheries policy shall ensure that fishing and aquaculture are sustainable industries – environmentally, economically and socially. They shall also serve as a useful food source in the EU. The goal is to promote a dynamic fisheries industry and ensure that communities that rely significantly on fishing have an adequate standard of living.” (

Sweden’s Minister of Rural Affairs, Sven-Erik Bucht, has on numerous occasions commented on the importance of protecting the fishing industry – e.g. in a comment on 2018 Baltic Sea fishing quotas: “In terms of the outcomes for cod and salmon, I’m satisfied with the results, which I consider to be in line with our targets. It benefits our fishing industry and our coastal communities and provides us and future generations with healthy food.” ( Only in Swedish).

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (Sw: Havs- och vattenmyndigheten, “HaV”) is tasked with establishing criteria for a good marine environment as part of the implementation of the Marine Environment Ordinance. In principle, all criteria are based on biological assessments with the exception of commercial fishing, where a determination of a good marine environment shall take into consideration economic and social criteria in accordance with the Common Fisheries Policy. (HaV report 2917:32).

The Swedish Baltic Sea cod fishery is operated by bottom trawlers from throughout the country. Forty boats are licensed, but probably less than half of these fish to any great extent.

The fishing industry is therefore extremely limited in terms of both employment and economic value. It is supported by large subsidies which in turn require extensive bureaucracy. Sweden has the EU’s highest fishery administration costs. At least 100 people work with fishery administration at Swedish government agencies.

The major political focus on the fishing industry, the extensive administrative costs and direct subsidies must be weighed against the environmental consequences of a Baltic Sea cod stock that is headed towards collapse.

These must also be weighed against other methods of utilising marine resources. Statistics Sweden estimates that approximately 1.4 million Swedes engage in recreational fishing each year. As shown in the table above, Baltic Sea marine tourism provides around 30,000 full-time jobs and creates value added of approximately SEK 15 billion.