Saving Salmon: Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper

By Thomas Johansson, Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper and executive director of the Baltic Salmon Fund

The Baltic Sea coast of Sweden is fed by rivers that have traditionally been home to thriving salmon species. There were originally more than 80 wild salmon and sea trout rivers in the Baltic Sea region, but today, there are only around 30 rivers that still have wild salmon. What happened to fish populations in the other rivers? They’ve been decimated by hydro-electric dams, disease, pollution, and overfishing.

The Vindel River that runs through Vindeln, a city in northern Sweden, is one such waterway that experienced a decline in salmon numbers—so Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper stepped in.

Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper is part of the Baltic Salmon Fund. They work for strong and healthy salmon and sea-trout stocks in all rivers which flow into the Baltic Sea, while the Fund supports efforts to protect wild Baltic salmon in their natural habitat through sustainable management, science, river restoration, and sustainable tourism.

With respect to the falling fish populations in the Vindel River, because the government allows for commercial fishing within the restricted area of the estuary, which once was established to protect the wild Vindel salmons, we saw no other alternative than to act. Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper worked with city developer Jan Wejdmark to come to an agreement with a local nets fisherman. The fisherman reduced his fishing in the estuary of the exposed river in exchange for financial compensation. As a result, an estimated 1,000 wild salmon were saved.

Jan Wejdmark with a Vindel River salmon that passes through the fish path in Stornorrfors. 

City Developer Jan Wejdmark with a Vindel River salmon that passes through the fish path in Stornorrfors. 

Together with the Baltic Salmon Fund, Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper aims to remove all commercial fishing from the estuary of Vindelälven, hopefully as soon as spring 2019.

The wild salmon rivers have drawn worldwide attention from fly fishermen who appreciate the vast opportunities to catch large, wild salmon in natural environments, leading to a growing demand for tourism in the region.

“If the rural parts of northern Sweden are to prosper,” said Jan Wejdmark, “we need to make wise decisions on how to use natural resources in the most sustainable way. A growing tourism industry which incorporates fly fishing for salmon is definitely one way to do that.”

The Salmon Baltic Fund and Swedish Baltic Rivers Waterkeeper will continue to work together for strong and healthy salmon in Swedish rivers and around the Baltic Sea.

For more information about the river Vindeln project, contact:
Thomas Johansson
+46 (0) 70 581 20 79
[email protected]

Feature image by Thomas Johansson

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