Population: 2.88 million
GDP: €61 billion
Overview of the Lithuanian fisheries and aquaculture sector
Lithuania has a relatively short coastline of 90 km, and its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea amount to 7,000 sq. km. Lithuania has significant inland waters covering 2,621 sq. km, 4% of the country’s territory. There are 2,827 lakes with a surface greater than 0.5 ha (87,359 ha), 1,589 ponds (24,434 ha), and 731 rivers longer than 10 km (32,601 ha) including the largest rivers Nemunas and Neris.
The total value of the fisheries sector is less than 0.5 % of the country’s GDP. However, fisheries have a long tradition and play an important role in small communities in coastal areas. It employs 4,458 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers: 491 in fisheries, 431 in aquaculture, and 3,536 in processing. About 70 % of the employees are women who are traditionally occupied in the fish processing industry.
The Lithuanian fleet is divided into 3 segments: small-scale operating in the Baltic Sea coastal area, large-scale operating in the Baltic Sea, and the long-distance fleet which is largest in terms of capacity and economic size by a wide margin.
Marine fisheries represent about 97 % of the total Lithuanian catch. Total capture fisheries catch in 2015 was 83,705 tonnes which included the Baltic Sea, long-distance ocean and inland fisheries. Lithuania’s fishing fleet is overwhelmingly made up of small coastal fishing vessels under 12 metres long, numbering 145 vessels in 2015, while only 32 fishing vessels operate in the open Baltic Sea. Lithuania has 7 long distance fishing vessels which operate off Mauritania and 4 vessels operating in Moroccan waters. The remaining vessels are used for coastal fishing and Baltic Sea offshore fishing. The average vessel age is 32 years. Lithuania's fleet has been reduced significantly in the past decade.
The Baltic Sea marine fishery comprises five main commercial species, of which cod is the most important in value. Other species caught in the Baltic Sea include herring, sprat, turbot, and flounder. Catches of herring and flatfish have fluctuated substantially over the past years. All fish landed are used for human consumption. Approximately 70 % of the fish landed is sold through the Klaipeda fish auction.
High-seas fishing vessels are operating off the West Africa coast, in the exclusive economic zones of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Kingdom of Morocco, Guinea, and Senegal. The Lithuanian high-seas fleet fishes in areas regulated by Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO). The main commercial species in the high-seas fisheries are mackerel, sardinella and redfish, as well as shrimp caught in the Svalbard area.
Inland fisheries account for about 2% of Lithuania’s total catches, with the Curonian Lagoon being the most significant inland fishing area.
Comprising 40 enterprises, the Lithuanian aquaculture sector produced around 3,845 tonnes of fish in 2014. Most of the fish are produced in 9.2 thousand hectares of fish ponds. Companies are focused increasingly on organic production. Currently, organic fish are produced in more than 50 % of the total water reservoirs. Production in recirculation systems is growing. Carp is the main species, representing over 90 % in weight and 80 % in value of total production. Other important fish species include sturgeon, rainbow trout, northern pike, and African catfish. Most fish produced from aquaculture are consumed within the country, and the main export markets are Poland and Latvia. There is no marine aquaculture in Lithuania.
Processing and trade
The processing sector is the most important in terms of economic size and employment, and it is competing successfully at international level. The processing sector is relatively large and export driven, relying on imported raw material. Its markets include both the EU and non-EU countries. There are 49 fish processing companies distributed across almost all the counties. Given its coastal location, Klaipeda is the most significant county. The main species used for processing are herring, cod, and salmon. These are made into a variety of products including frozen, dried, smoked and canned fish. A wide selection of surimi and culinary products is also produced by the processing sector. In 2015, 107,900 tonnes were produced in total with a production value of almost €479 million.
Most raw materials are imported, and most of the processed fish is exported. In 2016, Lithuania exported fishery products with a value of around €472 million and imported fishery products with value of around €448 million. Surimi products represented about 30% of the total export volume. The main market is the EU with Germany, France and the Baltic states as the most important destinations. Exports to the CIS countries have been stable for several years at about 5 % of the total export volume.
There is a growing trend for increased fish consumption. Fish products are popular and present in most supermarkets. Lithuania is one of the largest producers of surimi in the world, a fact referred to as a "Lithuanian Phenomenon". According to the Statistics Lithuania, the average annual per capita fish consumption in Lithuania was 19 kilograms in 2015.
The key challenge for the fishing sector is to develop environmentally sustainable and profitable fisheries by enhancing the competitiveness of fisheries businesses and reducing the impact of fisheries on the marine environment.
The aquaculture sector aims to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use in pond aquaculture and closed recirculation systems, develop farming of species that can open new markets and fetch higher prices, and preserve traditional extensive aquaculture and organic production.
The main challenge in the processing industry is improving market organization, increasing profitability to achieve sustainability of the entire market chain, and reducing dependency on imported raw materials.