Unlike other Nordic countries, in the late 1980s Finland had few fishermen, and the fishing industry was small. Finland's coastal waters offered poor fishing grounds because of their low salt content (caused by the heavy flow from the country's many rivers). Rivers and lakes were often relatively unproductive because stream runoff often contained insufficient nutrients. In addition, those inland waterways that did support exploitable fish populations were often located too far from market centers to make commercial fishing profitable. Log-floating operations and hydroelectric installations disrupted some fishing grounds, and the paper industry polluted others.
The poverty of Finland's waters explained why, despite considerable government aid, relatively few Finns were Fishermen. In 1985, for example, only 2,200 fishermen worked full-time, while another 5,000 worked part-time; they used a fleet of about 530 boats. That same year, the fish catch totaled some 111,000 tons, of which roughly two-thirds were salt-water fish, and onethird were fresh-water fish. Baltic herring was the most valuable catch, followed by salmon. A share of the catch came from Soviet and Swedish waters, to which Finland had gained access under bilateral agreements.
Unable to meet domestic demand, Finland had to import about 300,000 tons of fish each year, including large amounts of fish offal that was used as feed on fur farms. Demand for fish was thus relatively strong, but observers believed that, given the country's poor fisheries, it was likely that the small fishing industry would become even smaller.
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