Finland and Norway are proposing a highly exceptional ban on salmon fishing in the whole River Tenojoki (Tana) watercourse, the Tanafjord and the sea area. Fishing for other species will continue, and for this purpose a new type of rod fishing licence is proposed for the area, said in a press release.
The temporary ban would apply to both rod fishing and fixed gear intended to catch salmon, i.e. weirs, gill nets and drift nets. The restrictions would apply to the River Tenojoki main stem and its tributaries, and to the Tanafjord and an extensive coastal area outside it of the size of four municipalities. This connected area would cover the whole life cycle of the Tana salmon population, which is composed of 30 different populations.
The reason for this exceptional restriction is the rapid decline in the Tana salmon stock status detected in the monitoring. Under the present fishing regulations, the recovery of the salmon stocks has not proceeded as was expected. A total ban is needed because even restricted fishing would have too much impact on the stocks and significantly slow down their recovery.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä considers the outcome reached in the negotiations with Norway as a necessary measure to preserve the Tana salmon stocks.
“The decision is a tough one especially for the local residents of the River Tenojoki region, but the aim is to ensure that we have the fishing opportunities and viable salmon stocks in the future as well. What is crucial for Finland is that Norway is also prepared to restrict fishing in the Tanafjord and sea area. The outcome of the negotiations provides a unique opportunity to preserve salmon during its whole life cycle,” Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä says.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has assessed the temporary ban in relation to the different fundamental rights, including the protection of property, right of the Sámi people to practise their culture, and environmental responsibility under the Constitution of Finland. Salmon fishing in the River Tenojoki region is an important part of the Sámi culture, which is why it was necessary to assess whether a break in salmon fishing is less harmful than a decline in the future fishing opportunities.
When the present Fishing Act was adopted, the Constitutional Law Committee stressed that the public authorities have not only the authority but also the responsibility under section 52 of the Fishing Act to ensure sustainability in exploiting the fish resources and to preserve biodiversity.
The ban on salmon fishing will have negative impacts on the economy of the River Tenojoki region. The tourism industry and joint owners of fishing waters, in particular, will suffer losses of income from tourism and fishing permits. The local government of Utsjoki, together with operators in the area, has already started the preparation of measures related to abrupt structural changes.
The impacts of the ban on salmon fishing will also be addressed by increasing the opportunities to fish for species other than salmon. A new rod fishing permit will be introduced for tourists that will entitle them to use light fly fishing gear to fish for e.g. grayling. The right to use nets to fish for other species before the upstream migration of salmon will be retained, and restricted net fishing in the River Inarinjoki in August will be allowed. Local residents may engage in rod fishing from the shore with a limited number of non-barbed hooks in the lure. In addition, fishing for sea trout in the River Tenojoki will be allowed.
The changes based on the outcome of the negotiations will be implemented by three different government decrees concerning the total ban on salmon fishing, fishing for other species, and fishing restrictions for the tributaries of the River Tenojoki. The decrees will be sent out for comment this week. The final regulations should enter into force by 1 May 2021.