This issue is also important in the fisheries sector. The Fisheries Service under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania is the main institution looking after fishery resources in Lithuania. It implements Lithuanian fisheries policy, which is based on the EU Common Fisheries Policy, conserves and restores fish stocks, controls their usage in marine waters, and carries out applied research in the field of fisheries.
Fisheries monitoring and control
One of the most important tasks of the Fisheries Service is to control fisheries in marine waters. The activity is carried out on the fishing vessels, which are fishing in the Baltic Sea territory of the Republic of Lithuania; in the exclusive economic zone; in the littoral zone and also on those Lithuanian fishing vessels, which operate in the high seas. Fisheries Service officers inspect unloading and reloading operations, and the first sale of fisheries products in ports and at other venues. In addition, the Fisheries Service monitors the capacity of the Lithuanian fisheries fleet.
Last year the Fisheries Service dedicated a lot of attention to improve control of the fishing vessels by establishing information systems. Lithuania is among the first EU countries to implement an Internet-based system through which fisheries data are captured and transferred to the European Commission, member states, and other relevant institutions responsible for fisheries control. The rapid exchange of information enhances the effectiveness of control. Fishing effort, quota, catch information and other related reports are submitted through new, modern and safe exchange channels that ensure data integrity in every link of the control chain. Fishing vessels inspection reports are being transferred into electronic databases. The electronic fishing logbook system is successfully used and updated in accordance with the latest requirements, which allow fishing vessels to use the system and carry out fishing activities in EU and international waters. The Fisheries Service has acquired new equipment to measure fishing vessel engine power, which enables the verification and control of fishing vessel capacity as well as risk analysis. A fish product traceability system is being developed, to ensure fish product traceability “from net to plate”. With the implementation of the fisheries control programme, the Fisheries Service also has acquired new satellite transmitters to receive information about the fishing vessels’ position in the water as well as about fishing catch data from the fishing grounds.
Fish stocks restoration and enhancement
It is evident that control of the fishermen alone is not enough preserve fish stocks. Unfavourable environmental factors can prevent the lasting recovery of valuable fish species. The essential task of the Fisheries Service is to research, preserve, restore and increase fish stocks in fishery water bodies. Therefore the Fisheries Service participates in the preparation of programmes for protecting valuable fish, for crayfish species recovery, for maintenance and enhancement, for fish restocking, and for the reintroduction of valuable aquatic organisms in to state water bodies.
The Fisheries Service has seven subdivisions which are located in the different regions of Lithuania. These subdivisions breed valuable fish species and crayfish: sea trout, Atlantic salmon, river trout, grayling, peled, Plateliai whitefish, Vištytis whitefish, European catfish, sharp-nosed sturgeon, carp, tench, pike-perch, northern pike, burbot, noble crayfish (approximately 90 percent of all cultured fish juveniles are restocked in state water bodies by the subdivisions of the Fisheries Service).
The main aim of fish culture in Lithuania is to recover protected fish stocks. This sphere is especially regulated by EU and national legislation. Lithuania is proud to be one of the first in the EU to have started restocking sharp-nosed sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhinchus L.). This species is listed among the protected animals, plants and fungi species of Lithuania. In accordance with this status Lithuania has approved the programme for the restoration of sharp-nosed sturgeon stocks in 2012-2020 and subdivisions of the Fisheries Service have started to breed sharp-nosed sturgeon. In 2011-2013 the institution stocked Lithuanian rivers with 12,411 of these fish juveniles (of which part were marked with special tags). Research into fish migration and reports from recreational fishermen about their catches have shown that this work has been successful.
Another significant programme is the “European Eel (Anguilla anguilla L). Management Plan in Lithuania” which is implemented by the Fisheries Service. Since 2011 1.6 million units of European eel juveniles at various stages of development have been released into Lithuanian state lakes.
Aquaculture and scientific activities
It is not enough just to breed valuable fish to restock migratory fish resources. Migratory conditions too must be improved so that fish can travel to the spawning grounds and naturally replenish the species population. Consequently, the Fisheries Service organises, coordinates and carries out activities to improve migratory conditions for the fish. Moreover, the organisation monitors migratory fish to determine the efficiency of fish passes.
One of the most significant achievements in the aquaculture sector is the selection of the new carp line “Šilavotas carp” as a result of research carried out in the Šilavotas subdivision of the Fisheries Service. This kind of fish grows well and is highly productive. Šilavotas fish farm has supplied different matured carp breeds to other aquaculture companies since 1977. Since 1990 thousands of matured carps have been sold every year. All carps in Šilavotas have certificates of origin and Lithuanian aquaculture companies are strongly advised to purchase carp for breeding from this division to avoid fish of unknown origin that could possibly suffer from malformation, inbreeding, vulnerability to diseases etc.
One of the Fisheries Service subdivisions also performs laboratory research such as parasitological and chemical tests of fish and other aquatic organisms, measurements and studies of biological and chemical pollutants in water bodies containing fish, and of pollutants emitted into the environment. This monitoring is carried out in the Fishery Service’s ponds. It also controls the epizootic condition of ponds, and carries out the treatment of fish and fish disease prevention measures. Furthermore, this subdivision carries out research required for the production, storage and incubation of fish and other aquatic organisms. This work is needed for the prevention of fish diseases and other types of biological hazards.
Projects supplement the institution’s budget
Lithuania is still a developing country. Although the Fisheries Service has sufficient human resources and great efforts are made to achieve all its strategic aims, implementing these activities successfully also calls for adequate financing. Since the level of national funding does not fully cover this, the Fisheries Service prepares projects for EU support.
The Fishery Service prepared and now implements four projects, which are funded by the European Fisheries Fund and by the national budget. The first project - “Implementation of European Eel Management Plan in Lithuania” contributes to the restoration of eel stocks in Lithuania and to securing the habitat of European eels. The main activities of this project are replenishing state water bodies with European eels and to carry out monitoring and research in this area. Another project is to reconstruct and adapt the Fisheries Service building to accommodate a marine fisheries and aquaculture laboratory, while a third will invest in the subdivisions of the Fisheries Service. The implementation of these projects will contribute to more competitive fisheries sector and will promote better management and preservation of fisheries stocks, improve working conditions and also promote more productive partnership between scientists and the fisheries sector. The fourth project will build fish passes next to dams on the Kražantė and Sausdravas Rivers and will reconstruct a fish pass on the Vilnia River. By contributing to the improvement of the water environment in these rivers this project will protect and develop the fauna and flora in inland waters.
State institutions need to adapt to the rapidly changing environment to become more competitive. Specialists in government departments should be modern and in step with information flows and new technologies. This is the main reason for raising specialists’ qualification in all areas. The Fisheries Service has therefore prepared a project to improve the qualifications of its employees. The objective of the project is to improve administrative employees’ abilities so as to better achieve the Fisheries Service’s strategic goals.
Domestic and international collaboration for better results
Partnership projects are promoted because they help to solve problems relevant, for example, to both fisheries and environmental protection. Cooperation between partners with different competencies and experience contribute to achieving complex results with sustained benefits. The Fisheries Service, together with Klaipeda University and other partners is carrying out the LIFE+ project “Inventory of Marine Habitats and Species for the Development of the NATURA 2000 Network in the Lithuanian Exclusive Economic Zone of the Baltic Sea”. The main goal is to evaluate marine habitats’ fish and sea bird diversity and distribution in the Lithuanian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Baltic Sea. The Fisheries Service will analyse data from the EEZ regarding fish distribution, as well as quantitative and biological parameters, in particular for Twaite shad and the whitefish population.
Fisheries connect many countries directly. If fish resources decrease in one country it can have an affect in others. Improving the fishery environment is necessary at the national and international level. Currently the Fisheries Service is preparing an application for a project to rehabilitate the Baltic Sea sturgeon which is supported by the financial instrument “Seed Money”. The aim of this project is to conduct a pilot study for the Baltic Sea sturgeon rehabilitation in six countries (Germany, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, and Kaliningrad Oblast). The study will be the first step in preparing an international Baltic Sea Sturgeon restocking programme.