The History of Fish Farming in Finland

The first steps in fish farming in Finland date back to the late 19th century. This period also saw the publication of the first fish farming guides. The credit for their publication goes to Finland’s first fisheries inspector, Henrik Holmberg. He was appointed to his position in 1860, but as early as 1858, “Practical Instructions for Raising Salmon-like Fish” were published, and in the same year, “How to Get Fish to Thrive in Rivers and Lakes in Finland.” These guides addressed fish farming, which was gaining a strong foothold as a means of managing fish populations. The following year, “Introduction to Summer Fish Farming in Finland” was published, also by Holmberg. Thanks to his efforts, several fish farming facilities and hatcheries were established in Finland.

In 1883, the second fisheries inspector of Finland, Johan August Malmgren, issued a statement regarding the suitability of establishing artificial fish farming in Finland, which he wrote after visiting the Nikolsk fish farming facility in the Novgorod region. The statement also included experiences from Europe and America. Malmgren believed that it would not be possible to raise catches through stocking and that the costs of cultivation would always be higher than the yield. His statement, in which he opposed fish farming and stocking of fry, sparked a wide-ranging discussion, even abroad. As a result, fish farming facilities established during Holmberg’s tenure quickly deteriorated and ceased operations. It took two decades before fish farming was rekindled in Finland.

Initially, fish farming focused on native species, primarily those with spring spawning habits, such as pike. New species for cultivation were introduced to Finland in the 19th century. The most significant of these was rainbow trout, initially referred to as “sateenkaarirautu.” Rainbow trout originated from the Pacific Ocean and was originally brought to Europe from North America in the early 1880s. The first batches of eggs were imported to Finland in 1894, but it took a long time for cultivation to gain momentum.

The year 1951 marked a turning point for the development of fish farming. A new Fisheries Act was introduced, allocating funds from the state budget for the promotion of fisheries to the extent required by fishing permit revenues. This inspired fisheries promotion organizations to intensify cultivation efforts, leading to the enthusiastic construction and refurbishment of new facilities.

In the 1950s, rainbow trout did not yet hold significant importance in Finnish fish farming. It was generally considered unsuitable for our cold waters, and cultivating it was deemed unprofitable. Nevertheless, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, several individuals independently started experimenting with rainbow trout cultivation.

The most significant period of development occurred in the 1960s, with the commencement of industrial production of rainbow trout for consumption. At the same time, the demand for fingerlings also grew substantially. These factors led to the establishment of numerous private fish farming enterprises.

The Finnish Salmon Farmers’ Association The belief in the potential of fish farming, especially rainbow trout cultivation, as a significant industry, led to the establishment of the Finnish Salmon Farmers’ Association on March 15, 1964. The founding meeting took place in Helsinki. Kauno Peltoniemi was elected as the Chairman of the Board, and the former Speaker of the Parliament, Kauno Kleemola, was chosen as the Chairman of the Association.

A significant event was the presentation and tasting event of domestically pond-raised rainbow trout held on November 2, 1965, at the Marski Hotel in Helsinki by the Finnish Salmon Farmers’ Association. During this event, rainbow trout was rebranded as “kirjolohi” to distinguish the fish raised in Finland from imported varieties. The name was also considered un-Finnish and misleading, especially the “rautu” part. The idea for the name “kirjolohi” came from a veterinarian from Alavus, Ikkala, who proposed it based on the Kalevala. In the fifth rune of the Kalevala, there is a verse:

“They began to carve the salmon, to slice the fish with knife; The salmon plunged beneath the sea, the fish would brightly gleam From the bottom of the red boat, from Väinämöinen’s vessel.”

The then President of the Republic, Urho Kekkonen, was invited to the event and became the godfather of the newly renamed kirjolohi. As a result, the event received significant publicity, and the conquest of kirjolohi in Finland could begin.


Ari Savikko