GENERAL PROTOCOL ON THE CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS
The project “Development of Co-operation of Small-Scale Fisheries Sector of the Baltic Sea Region, by applying the Exchange of Good Practice During Educational Meetings and Virtual Information Database Establishment Methods”, funded by the European Union funds, held the conference on the 23rd of August 2016 in Liepāja (Latvia), where the fishermen-businessmen from Lithuania and Latvia, fishing in the Baltic Sea coast and internal waters, took part. During the conference fishermen shared their business related problems and exchanged in good practice. The conference touched the main issues that are currently relevant to fishermen and are impossible to solve through their effort alone without any additional support (from the European Union, local government institutions).
The main issues:
- Development of Co-operation of Small-Scale Fisheries Sector of the Baltic Sea Region. The meeting participants were satisfied with the conference, where they could interact not only with their colleagues, but also with the representatives from different countries. While considering further possibilities regarding the steady co-operation among the Baltic fishermen, the emphasis was put on the fact that only the small-scale or very small-scale fishermen fish at the coast or in the internal waters, and their financial capacity to organise that kind of meetings are limited and almost impossible without any support. Their associations have no representatives in the organisations, which make comments and recommendations directly to the European Union institutions regarding the improvement of the fisheries sector. That kind of individual priority is not common in the fisheries programmes of different countries, and if it is, the problem arises: such co-operation project requires arrangements with each and every country (separate projects have to be prepared), and usually it is impossible due to different fisheries programmes. Considering local development projects, co-operation is possible only in the narrow circle of fishermen. According to the conference participants, the initiative for the full co-operation among the representatives of the small-scale fishery can be maintained solely through the direct sector funding by the European Union.
- The spread of the invasive species - round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) - in the Baltic Sea coast. Latvian fishermen stated in their speeches that the number of fish, caught in the Baltic Sea coast, has been gradually dropping. One of the things causing this problem is considered to be the spread of the invasive species – round goby. Lithuanian fishermen also agreed with this, because they face a similar problem. This fish species breeds 2-4 times a year, and from a fisheries point of view, the competition among the species is taking place, and the local fish species, such as plaice, eelpouts, vimba breams, turbot flatfish and many other freshwater fish species, who migrate into the sea for food during the spring and summer seasons, are losing the fight. Fishermen think that the problem can be solved through active interventional fish population reduction by catching it, but the actions cannot be accomplished due low kilo prices (during successful catches, processors pay 0.10 – 0.15 EUR per kilo). This price is financially unprofitable for the fishermen, because it exceeds the fishing costs. According to the information provided by the representative of the fish processing company, the demand for the round goby is low in the Baltic countries, so the processing companies have to invest in the new technologies and equipment, which requires time and additional investment. Currently, it is impossible to increase the purchase price, and the companies are not prepared to accept the large amounts of this fish. During the conference it was unanimously decided that the European Union shall support the active interventional population reduction of the round goby, because this problem affects not only certain countries (Latvia, Lithuania), but also other countries, fishing in the Baltic Sea. According to the participants, it could be achieved by allocating additional funds for the fishermen to reduce the fish population (reimbursement of the incurred business expenses) as well as by encouraging and supporting the innovation application in the processing companies, where the fish could be processed. This method shall be applied in all the countries at the same time, otherwise it would be ineffective.
- Harm caused by seals to the fishermen in the sea. Both Latvian and Lithuanian fishermen face the problem of the rapid seal population growth in the Baltic Sea. Since the small-scale fishing companies fish mostly in the Baltic Sea coast or its bays, the intense growth of the seal population caused a big loss for the fishermen (damaged fishing equipment, decrease of fish resources, etc.). The Baltic Sea States solve this problem separately and apply different methods. Lithuanian fishermen already receive compensations for the harm caused by seals, while Latvia has just started looking for the solutions to this problem. While solving this problem, the fishermen of different states have to communicate with environmental organisations, which may benevolently co-operate with fishermen to achieve the common goal (protect the environment and don’t forget the fishermen) in one country, but defend their own interest in the other. According to the participants, the European Union institutions have to assess the problem in a much broader context and take joint action, by uniting all the countries in order to find the solution to the problem regarding the reduction of the harm caused by seals to the fishermen.
- Fuel excise duties. During the conference, the participants expressed the opinion that micro-enterprises and macro-enterprises in the fishery business suffer discrimination regarding the applied exemptions for excise duties while purchasing fuel in comparison to bigger enterprises. Both farmers and fishermen may claim the exemptions for excise duties while purchasing diesel fuel in their own state for business development. Large fishing companies fish with boats that run on diesel fuel (trailers and such), while micro and macro fishing companies that fish in the Baltic Sea coast and internal waters have to use the boats with petrol engines (usually with outboard engines). This is the case, because the small-scale fishery companies fish in a particular fishing area, and diesel engines are not applicable to that kind of fishing. According to the conference participants, these companies should get the exemptions for excise duties while purchasing petrol fuel in order to establish equality and fair competition.
Conference participants authorised to sign the protocol: