CapitalDenmarkCapital: Copenhagen

PopPopulation: 5.7 million
(2016, Eurostat)

EuroGDP: €202 billion
(2015, Eurostat)

GDP/capita: €48,400
(2016, Eurostat)


Overview of the Danish fisheries and aquaculture sector 

Marine fisheries

DK Fish

Although the overall contribution of the fisheries sector to the Danish economy is minor, the fishing sector plays an important role in the Danish economy. Fisheries constitute a very important economic activity in specific regions, e.g. in Western and Northern Jutland and the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. Norwegian lobster in the Kattegat and blue mussels in Limfjord are also of significant local importance. Fisheries represent about 0.15 % of GDP. 

In 2015, the fishing fleet consisted of 2,366 vessels with a gross tonnage of 66 thousand tonnes and total power of 220 thousand KW. Over 95 % of the enterprises own a single vessel with the rest owning two to five vessels. Small vessels represent the bulk of the fleet (81 %), while vessels longer than 24 metres account for less than 3% yet represent more than 63% of the total gross tonnage. This segment mostly consists of large pelagic trawlers. Around 80% of Danish vessels less than 12 metres use set gillnets. The remaining 20 % of the fleet is made of vessels using bottom otter trawls (13 %), boat dredges (3 %), and other kinds of fishing gear. The latter is used mainly by vessels longer than 24 m.
A total of 59 fishing ports were registered in Denmark in 2015, of which only 74 ports host more than ten vessels. The main Danish fishing port in terms of fleet capacity is Thyborøn in central Jutland, which accounts for 20 % of the total gross tonnage of the Danish ports. Other significant ports include Hirtshals and Skagen, both in the northern Jutland, with 16 % and 12 % of the gross tonnage, respectively. There were 1,896 professional fishermen in 2014. 

In 2015, total landings by Danish vessels in domestic ports were 868,900 tonnes with a total value of approximately €461 million. The share of catches for human consumption on average is around 50 % of the total and consists of pelagic fish (mainly herring and mackerel), demersal white fish (cod, hake, haddock, whiting, saithe), flatfish (sole, plaice, flounder), lobster, and deepwater prawn. Species caught for industrial use in the North Sea are sandeel, Norwegian pout, blue whiting, and sprat. Sprat is also caught in Skagerrak / Kattegat and in the Baltic Sea.

Inland fisheries

In Denmark, there are about 500 lakes and ponds, mostly small and shallow. The largest lake, Arresø (41 km²), is located on the island of Zealand. Only two rivers are longer than 100 km, and five are longer than 60 km, with the principal river being Gudenå at 158 km long. The main commercial inland fishing areas in Denmark include Lake Arresø and the estuaries of Ringkøbing Fjord, Nissum Fjord, Limfjord, Randers Fjord and Isefjorden/Roskilde Fjord. There is also limited commercial fishing in 20–30 other lakes and a few rivers.

Inland fishery is distinguished from seas fishery by being “carried out in freshwater,” and professional fishing is distinguished from sport fishing by being “allowed to trade catch.” In Denmark 75% of total lake area (including reservoirs) is under private ownership, while 25% is under state ownership. Rivers in Denmark are almost 100% privately owned, but only 20% of them are large enough for fishing with commercial gear. Generally fishing rights belong to the nearest landowner of the adjacent water, and it is not allowed to separate fishing rights from land 27  ownership. The main species in inland fisheries are eel, perch, bream, pike, pike-perch, and smelt. Commercial lake fisheries target eel, pike, pike-perch, and perch. There are also some small-scale fisheries for crayfish, mostly in small lakes and ponds. Commercial inland fisheries in Denmark have little importance, as catches have declined during the past 20–30 years, and they are expected to keep falling due to increasing demand for recreational fishing.


DK Aqua

The main species farmed in Denmark is rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus mykiss) which constitutes over 90 % of the total production, and in 2015 amounted to 47,063 tonnes in volume and over €150 million in value. The production is divided into two segments: land-based farms and sea cages. The tradition of land-based farming  dates back to the mid-19th century. Jutland accounts for 70 % of the total trout production. The techniques used are ponds, raceways, and recirculation systems producing small portion-size trout. Other freshwater species such as European eel (Anguilla anguilla) are farmed in land-based recirculation units. Pike-perch, turbot, and salmon are among the other species farmed. The Danish freshwater fish production is currently taking place in about 260 fish farms, of which most are freshwater farms primarily in Jutland. Sea cage farming in Denmark was introduced in the 1970s and now represents 30 % of the total trout production. Production has been growing since 2008 and products include both meat  and trout eggs. Around 70 % of the farming takes place in the Baltic Sea area. Farming blue mussels on long lines is an activity that started in 2006, and total volumes produced in 2015 reached 1,809 tonnes. Farming takes place mainly in the Limfjord in the northern part of Jutland, but also in the Skagerrak and Kattegat. There were 448 employees in total in the aquaculture industry in 2014.

Processing and trade

DK Proc

Fisheries are an important industry considering that Denmark is the eighth largest exporter of fish and seafood in the world , with about 85 % of Danish exports staying within the EU. Denmark is a major importer of raw materials used for further processing which are then then re-exported . Most of the processing facilities are located in northern Jutland close to the major landing sites. The main product presentation forms are fresh and frozen fillets, smoked, salted and dried fish, as well as preserved and canned fish. The most important group for consumption is preserved / canned fish which accounts for up to 65 % of the volume and up to 57 % of the value of the total processed products, while smoked fish cover up to 18 % in terms of volume and up to 26 % in terms of value. Another significant part of the fish processing sector is fishmeal and fish oil, which accounts for up to 68 % of the total volume and up to 31 % of the total value of industrial fisheries. The processing sector is important to Denmark as it provides a source of jobs in remote fishing communities. Employment in fish processing is about 70 % of the total employment in the fishery industry. In 2014, the total number of employees in the processing industry was 3,683 across 122 factories, including 6 fishmeal factories for non-human consumption.           

In 2015, Denmark imported 1,240,107 tonnes of fish and seafood for a total value of €2.3 billion. Norway was the main country for Danish fisheries imports with 412,660 tonnes. Sweden (176,950 tonnes) and Greenland (170,720 tonnes) are also important suppliers of fish and seafood. Imports arrive from foreign fishing vessels landing their catch in Danish fishing harbors, or they originate in fish landed abroad, which is then bought and brought to Denmark by ship or lorry.

In 2015, exports of fish and seafood reached nearly 1,022,197 tonnes for a total value of €3.2 billion. Over 80 % of the fish and seafood exports from Denmark were destined to EU countries, with Germany as the largest single market, receiving over 186,000 tonnes,. Outside of the EU, the largest importer is Norway with total volume of 196,810 tonnes. Fish exports are composed of many very different products. The three largest groups are: whole fish, fillets, and prepared / preserved fish, which make up 56 % of the exports. Fishmeal and fish oil, as well as freshwater fish and various shellfish, are of great importance as well.


As a source of protein, fish faces strong competition from meat and poultry sectors. On average, Danes consume sixfold more meat than fish  by volume, and spend four times more on meat than on fish products  by value. While one out of ten Danes does not eat fish at all, the highest levels of fish consumption are observed among the age group 50+, women, the highly educated, and singles. The actual volumes of fish consumption in the country are measured by consumer panel surveys. According to the most recent survey held in 2013, the consumption of fish in Denmark was 13.5 kg per capita in terms of product weight. Herring, salmon and shrimp are the most preferred species.


One of the main challenges for Danish fisheries is to efficiently implement the discard ban. Investments that aim at decreasing and handling unwanted catches are needed. Other important challenges are the protection of marine biodiversity and the restoration of rivers to protect biodiversity and facilitate fish migration.

Based on Denmark´s EMFF Operational Programme 2014–2020, the key objectives in aquaculture are increasing aquaculture production by 25 %, increasing ecological production to at least 10 % of total production, and increasing the export of aquaculture production by 25 %.

One of the aims of the Operational Programme is to reinforce the processing and marketing of fisheries and aquaculture products through innovation, certification, traceability, and other suitable measures. This will strengthen the sector's competitiveness and ensure environmentally sustainable production. For example, the volume of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified aquaculture production is expected to increase significantly through 2020.

Useful Links for Denmark

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DK l

Fish production and trade:

Fishing BoatCapture: 868,900 tonnes live weight
(2015, The Danish AgriFish Agency)

AquaAquaculture: 47,063 tonnes live weight
(2015, The Danish AgriFish Agency)

TradeExport value: €3.2 billion (2015, The Danish AgriFish Agency)
Import value: €2.3 billion (2015, The Danish AgriFish Agency)

Download Denmark's fisheries and aquaculture factsheet

Features in Eurofish Magazine:

Eurofish Magazine 1 2015

Eurofish Magazine 5 2013

Eurofish Magazine 3 2012

Eurofish Magazine 5 2010

The most recent articles featuring Denmark in the Eurofish Magazine are listed here.

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