Skip to main content
Oceans and fisheries
News article29 November 2022Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries3 min read

Preserving local heritage and sustainable small-scale fisheries in Gotland, Sweden

Ide fish burgers, Gutefisk project, Sweden
Ide fish burgers

Small-scale fisheries often dominate the livelihoods of coastal communities and local economies. This is certainly true on the Swedish island of Gotland, whose fishing communities fishers date back generations. In recent years, however, stocks of Baltic cod, salmon and herring have declined and restrictions on fishing have increased. As a result, commercial fishing activity in Gotland nearly went extinct.

In addition, a rising fear of toxins in Baltic fish meant that locals were less interested in eating locally caught fish.

In 2015, Gotland’s few remaining fishers decided it was time to take action to preserve their fishery and bring the value of local fish back into the community. They began by setting up an economic association called Gutefisk (“Good Fish”).

In total three different projects have received EU funding, with a focus on developing sustainable Small Scale Coastal Fisheries activities in Gotland.

Cooperation is the way forward

With support from two local institutions – the Hushållningssällskapet (a rural development association) and the Gotland Blue Centre – Gutefisk gained EU funding to recreate a market for local fish by increasing the capacity of the fishery and showing people that Baltic fish are safe and delicious to eat. Identifying new species and promoting sustainable fishing were important parts of the strategy.

Gutefisk has applied a holistic approach to supporting and encouraging the input of local healthy seafood into the regional food networks. “It is a pilot to get fish from the Baltic back onto Swedish tables” says Johannes Klingvall of Gutefisk

Creating knowledge through a Fish Guide

There is a general lack of knowledge about how “edible” fish from the Baltic Sea really are, all the way from the fishers themselves right up to consumers. The Gutefisk partners therefore decided to use science and information campaigns to show people the true situation: which fish species are available and which are good to eat. The decision depends in part on whether the fish are lean or oily, and the Swedish Food Agency also sets out recommendations for different target groups of people.

To this end the Gotland Fish Guide project worked to analyse and map all the fish species in Gotland, and produce factsheets to help fishers understand the situation and pass their knowledge on to consumers. Another objective of this project is to create awareness of the different species and the opportunities they offer to local small-scale coastal fishers.

New old species and sustainable fishing techniques

In parallel, two other projects (the Pike and Garfish Network, and seal-safe gear for small-scale fisheries) explored the commercialisation of fish species that are less familiar to consumers. These included new “old” species like garfish and ide (Leuciscus idus, also known in English as orfe) that were eaten in the past. In each case the aim was to help the local fishery while taking pressure off stocks of cod, salmon and herring.

The Pike and Garfish Network set out to re-launch an old tradition, the Gotland “Fish Day”, and to make garfish more popular with consumers. The organisers worked with Estonia to find inspiration from that country’s well-known Pike Festival. Activities included showing children how to catch garfish as part of a day at the beach, and local sport fishers teamed up to organise fishing trips by boat.

The ide fishery is run by Gutefisk with the support of Race for the Baltic, a local NGO, and the Swedish fish processor Guldhaven. The idea is that sustainably caught fish should be prioritised for local consumption. Guldhaven processes the ide once they have been landed, ensuring that the entire fish is used.

Exploring a new sustainable fishery to benefit the Baltic Sea and its small-scale coastal fishers

Ide is a bony fish, so Gutefisk worked in partnership with a local chef to develop a fish burger made from ide that allows more of the fish to be used. Gutefisk then collaborated with Guldhaven to help produce the burgers.

Gutefisk also worked with Race for the Baltic to ensure that the ide fishery is sustainable and contributes to the restoration of the Baltic. Race for the Baltic provides scientific expertise to support the monitoring of ide stocks in the region, and promotes ide fishing as a way to remove excess phosphates from the environment. The EU funding was important here by helping the fishers to invest in seal-safe traps that allow the ide fishery to remain highly selective and sustainable.


Publication date
29 November 2022
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries