The Riigikogu has voted to amend the Fishing Act, meaning an individual quota system will now be introduced for commercial fishing in lakes Peipus, Lämmi and Pihkva. Earlier in the day, fishers from Lake Peipus staged a protest outside the Riigikogu against the amendment.
The amendments to the Fishing Act mean the government will have the power to set annual catch quotas for fish species in Lakes Peipus, Lämmi and Pihkva, with the aim of ensuring fresh fish is available on the Estonian market for longer periods of time.
This differs from the current so-called "Olympic system," or common quota, which is preferred by those gathered in protest, whereby at the start of the fishing season, fish are caught on a first-come-first-served basis, encouraging fishers to catch as many as they can, as quickly as possible.
Following the amendment, the government will have the final say on which species of fish to set annual catch quotas for. However, the initiators of the amendment want individual quotas to be set, particularly for the most economically important species of fish including carp and perch in lakes Lämmi and Pihkva, as well as Lake Peipus smelt (Osmerus eperlanus dentex) and vendace.
The amended law includes a provision, which states that, in the event of a repeat of one of the seven serious infringements listed in the Fishing Act, a company's legal fishing quotas will be reduced by 10 percent for the following two years.
According to a press release, Sven Sester (Isamaa), chair of the Riigikogu's Rural Affairs Committee, said that the introduction of individual quotas will increase the confidence of companies when planning their economic activities and enable more flexible fishing time for fishers. Sester added, that the new amendments to the Fishing Act, would facilitate more sustainable management of the fish supplies in Lake Peipus and increase the period during which fresh fish is available for consumers, while also ensuring sustainable income for both companies and fishers, as well as improving state and local level tax collection processes.
The adoption of the amendment to the Fishing Act (136 SE), initiated by the Rural Affairs Committee, received 59 votes in favor and three against.
The protestors strongly oppose amendments to fishing regulations on Lake Peipus, Lake Lämmi and Lake Pihkva, which they say would only benefit large fishing companies and leave self-employed fishers facing financial ruin.
Editor: Michael Cole