Fishing activities in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga mainly depends on the state of stocks, which are affected by several factors - fishing activities, fish feeding conditions, water temperature, water pollution levels and other.

During 2013 total catches in the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga amounted to 60 997 t (main species were cod, Baltic herring, sprat etc.), which is an increase by almost 525 tonnes when comparing to 2012.  It is important to note that the quotas allocated to herring and sprat were fulfilled on average 96%, which is a very good performance indicator. While the available salmon catch quota was utilized only by 18%. Insufficient fulfilment of salmon quota is related to the prohibition of use of drift nets as well as to the market situation where imported Norwegian salmon is in dominant position. Cod quota was exhausted by 35% during the 2013. This trend of catch decrease is going on already since 2012. It is related to the recent changes in the cod population, where the reasons for such changes are not very clear even for fisheries scientists.

  Baltic sea and Gulf of Riga Coastal area Total Use of quota (%)
Latvias’ quota utilization in the Baltic Sea fisheries
Total 57 336.5 3660.3 60 996.,8  
Cod 2477.5 92.3 2569.8 35%
Salmon (pieces/t) 15/0.05 1274/4.1 4.2 18%
Baltic herring 17601.8 3118.1 20719.9 92%
Sprat 33297.3 12.5 33309.8 100%
Flounder 1318.6 160.2 1478.8 not applicable
Turbot   9,6 9,6 not applicable
Other species 2641.3 267.6 2908.9 not applicable

In the beginning of 2012 Latvia’s fishing fleet consists of more than 700 fishing vessels. These vessels are divided into several segments.

Vessels overall length, area 01.01.2011 01.01.2012 01.01.2013. 01.01.2014
Fishing fleet segments by operation area
<12m Coastal fishing 683 648 635 628
12-40m Baltic Sea offshore 92 74 72 68
>40m High seas 11 9 8 7
Total 786 731 715 703

In January 2014, there were 628 fishing vessels in Latvia, authorized to fish in the coastal waters of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. Major part of them is of the overall length not more than 5 m and operating without engine.

Mainly stationery fishing gears are used in the coastal fishing. Catches in these waters depend on the total quota allocated to Latvia. Total catches in the Baltic Sea coastal fishing constitute 3400 t or 3% of the total Latvian fishing fleet catches.  Main species are Baltic herring and cod.

Coastal fishing are also a part of traditional coastal landscape. Some coastal fishermen are working hard to diversify their activities - by including tourism (angling in the sea; participation in fishing, engagement in fish preparation etc.), agricultural activities, services etc. Some of coastal fishermen also are involved in fish processing, but mainly for inner market.

The main problem in the coastal fishing nowadays is caused by seals, which damage catch and gear. Several methods to avoid these predators are explored by fisherman, e.g., possible use of push-up trapnets that are popular in the Northern countries, pingers, etc. But due to the specifics of Latvian coastline the best solution has not yet been found.

The fishing fleet that operates beyond the coastal waters is the second largest one in terms of number. In 2014 this segment consisted of 68 vessels. The number of the segment has been decreased during the last few years because of implementation of scrapping programme. The main reason of the fleet capacity reduction was aiming for more efficient operations as well as rapid drop in resources - reduction of available quota.

Catches in the Baltic Sea offshore fisheries constitute 54.7 thous. t or 48% of the total Latvian fishing fleet catches.

The main fishing gears that are used in the Baltic Sea fisheries are bottom set gill nets and trawls. The main species targeted for the Baltic Sea fleet from the quoted fish are cod, herring and sprat.

In the high seas fishing 7 vessels were engaged on January 2014. High seas fishing took place in the Central Atlantic region (CECAF) Mauritania (EEZ) waters, based on fishing licenses, which were issued under the European Union and Mauritania fisheries agreement as well as under the European Union and Morocco fisheries agreement. A relatively small portion of the catch is made from fishing activities in the North Atlantic under NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization) and NEAFC (North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) Conventions, where for Latvia were granted quotas for shrimp, redfish and mackerel.

Total catches amounted 54.8 thous. t of fish and shrimp or 49% of the total Latvian fishing fleet catches. Main species caught were mackerel, horse mackerel, sardinella and redfish.

This type of fishing has a strong decrease over the last years. Such changes are related to prohibition of fishing activities with traps and nets in numerous lakes and rivers in favour of recreational fishery and angling. The fishing effort in this type of fishery is limited by the number of fishing gears allowed for use in respective water body. In places where the fishing is allowed, the fishing opportunities have been regularly strengthened by the implementation of the restocking plans.

The important reason for reduced business activities in inland waters is also undeveloped market for fresh water fish and their low demand for processing.

Total catches amounted 313 t of fishes. Breams, pikes and river-lampreys are the most popular fish species harvested in inland fishing.