The volume of Finnish fish farming has decreased from more than 20 million kilos to around 13 million kilos, even though demand for fish has increased. Two-thirds of the fish of the salmon family consumed in Finland have been farmed abroad, mainly in Norway and Sweden.

The EU has called on its member states to explore aquaculture growth opportunities to decrease its dependency on imported fish and increase fish production within the EU.

National aquaculture strategy

Finland has prepared a national aquaculture strategy for the sustainable growth of Finnish aquaculture. The strategy determines key measures to enable growth and manage environmental impacts. The strategy is based on the assumption that sustainable growth is in line with water quality obligations and other environmental goals. The strategy sets a growth target of 13.9 million kilos for aquaculture in mainland Finland. It is estimated that most of this target can be achieved in marine areas.

Aquaculture site selection plan

The goal of the aquaculture site selection plan is to direct aquaculture production to water areas that are suitable for the purpose in terms of the environment, the aquaculture industry and other uses of water. The preparation of the plan was based on the National Aquaculture Programme, which was approved as a Government Resolution in the summer of 2009. The programme aims to coordinate industrial and environmental policies related to aquaculture in such a way that the sector can be developed in an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable manner.

Permit requirements

Aquaculture in marine areas is guided by means of permits. An environmental permit and a water permit are needed for operations. With regard to aquaculture projects, the permit requirement is based on item 11e of Annex 2 to the Environmental Protection Act, concerning activities subject to permit:

‘Fish breeding or fish farms where at least 2,000 kg of dry food or other feed with equivalent nutritional value is used per year, or where the annual proliferation of fish is at least 2,000 kg, or where natural food ponds or groups of ponds are at least 20 hectares in size’.

In addition, an environmental permit may be required for operations in accordance with section 28 of the Environmental Protection Act (‘Permit requirement in groundwater areas’) if the threshold is exceeded.

Environmental permit applications submitted by fish farming facilities are processed by a Regional State Administrative Agency. The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres) serve as the state supervisory authority, as well as issuing statements on matters related to environmental permits. The ELY Centres also serve as the supervisory authorities. In addition to needing an environmental permit, fish farming facilities are required to have a water permit in accordance with the Water Act. The Water Act specifies the types of water resources management projects that are subject to a permit. However, the requirement for fish farming is based on the general permit requirement under the Water Act. The general requirement concerns deterioration in the ecological status of a water body as a result of operations, for example. Aquaculture projects located in the sea are almost always subject to a combined environmental and water permit procedure. One decision will be made concerning both permits.

Buildings located on land also need a building permit in accordance with the Land Use and Building Act. Planning and the national aquaculture site selection plan may be taken into account in the environmental permit procedure for fish farming. In addition, water and marine management plans must always be taken into account in accordance with section 51 of the Environmental Protection Act and chapter 3, section 6 of the Water Act. 

Impact assessment

A special environmental impact assessment must be conducted in projects falling under section 3 of the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure. Fish farming facilities were included in the list of projects testified in the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure in 2019. An environmental impact assessment in accordance with the Act must always be conducted for fish farming facilities located in a marine area in which the additional growth of fish is at least 1 million kilos per year.

On a case-by-case basis, the assessment procedure also applies to projects that are likely to have significant environmental impacts in terms of quality and scope, including the combined impact of different projects. When deciding on the application of the assessment procedure to an individual case, the characteristics and location of the project, as well as the nature of its impacts, must also be considered. The results of the EIA procedure must be taken into account when granting environmental and water permits to projects. 

The decision on the application of the EIA procedure will be made by the ELY Centre serving as the EIA coordinating authority. A statement on the need for an EIA procedure may be requested from the authorities for decision-making purposes. The party responsible for the operations may also present to the coordinating authority their justified view on whether an EIA procedure is required for the operations.

If the operations are likely to significantly undermine the protection values of a Natura area, the impacts of the operations must be assessed in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act (Natura assessment). The need for a Natura assessment is prescribed by section 65 of the Nature Conservation Act. According to the section, the permit authority must monitor to ensure that an assessment is conducted. The relevant ELY Centre will issue a statement on the need for a Natura assessment. If both an EIA and a Natura assessment are needed for the operations, these procedures can be combined.

The relevant Regional State Administrative Agency will make a decision concerning the environmental permit. The permit applicant must comply with the stipulations included in the decision. In aquaculture, the permit stipulations may concern the amount and nutrient content of the feed used, waste management and reports on monitoring and operations. The decision issued by the Regional State Administrative Agency can be appealed against in the Administrative Court of Vaasa. 

If a business owner wants to test a new technology or production method, they can file a notification of an activity undertaken on an experimental basis in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act, within the terms and conditions specified in the Act. The operations can begin if the authorities approve the notification.


Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Fisheries Policy

Nature Conservation Act (1096/1996)

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (2009). National Aquaculture Programme 2015. Government Resolution. 

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry of the Environment (2014). National aquaculture site selection plan. 

Land Use and Building Act (132/1999)

Setälä, J. et al. (2018). Marine aquaculture permitting pilots. Publication series of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities 32/2018.

Water Act (587/2011)

Aquaculture Strategy 2022. A competitive, sustainable and growing industry. Government Resolution, 4 December 2014.

Environmental Protection Act (527/2014)

Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure (252/2017)