Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Fishing Rights Lease: Benefits for Conservation and Management of Fish Stocks and Sustainability of Fisheries

Normunds Riekstins


Several international instruments address complex matters such as responsible fisheries, management of fishing fleet capacity, and the balance between access to fish resources and their availability. These issues should be recognized not only on the global level and at the level of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) but also in appropriate national and local programs and plans of action.

Moreover, any activity that progresses toward responsible fisheries practice should be supported by corresponding legal background. Only stable and mutually responsible legal terms set between the administration and fishers can lead to the sustainable management of fisheries.

The Republic of Latvia regained its independence in 1990. The decade was a period of development of multilateral international agreements in the fisheries sector. These agreements addressed highly migratory and straddling fish stocks and compliance with rules set for vessels fishing on the high seas. Latvia carefully followed the process of preparing the agreements and worked out its own regulations to maintain fishing activities in the waters under its national jurisdiction. The legislation system was newly developed, based on the grounds of the Civil Law of 1937—the renewed law of the first period of Latvia’s independence.

When specific fisheries legislation was drafted, the appropriate E.U. regulations and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries also were taken into account. All the existing problems in management practice were evaluated; the mistakes and negative experiences of other countries and of the European Union were considered, and efforts made to avoid them.

The main issue of concern was wide, free access to fish resources in several countries. Consequently, many users pretended to use a limited amount of these resources. The only solution under such circumstances was to reduce the number of fishers and introduce strict limitations on fishing. However, from an economic and social standpoint, it was a very painful act toward the stockholders in highly developed European states. For Latvia, this experience brought a significant advantage for the development of a comprehensive management system.

Latvia’s total marine border on the Baltic Sea is about 475 km, one-third of the national borderline. The Latvian economic zone includes more than 10% of the Baltic Sea territory, thus adding an additional 28,000 km2 to the national jurisdiction. The Latvian economic zone is among the richest in fish in the Baltic Sea. In fact, the Gulf of Riga is one of the richest fishing areas in the northern hemisphere, with density of 12 kg fish per ha. The most economically important fish species in the Baltic Sea are Baltic herring Clupea harengus membras, Baltic sprat Sprattus sprattus Balticus, Baltic cod Gadus morhua callarias, and Baltic salmon Salmo salar.

There are 2,256 lakes in Latvia, located mostly in southeast part of the country. Each lake has a water surface area of at least 1 ha, and together, the total area is 100,000 ha. Latvian lakes constitute 1.5% of the total territory of the state. The density of lakes is lower than in northern Europe but higher than in other European countries (e.g., 1% in Poland).

In addition, 12,000 rivers (brooks and streams included) constitute an overall length of 60,000 km. The main parts of the rivers are short (less than 10 km) and constitute 51% of overall river length in Latvia. Three hydroelectric power stations, including three water reservoirs with a total area of 10,200 ha, are built on the longest and widest river in Latvia, the Daugava River.