Viable fish stocks are the basis for a rich sport and recreational fishery. Skellefteå Municipality carries out extensive fisheries management, often in cooperation with the associations at the various fisheries management areas.
Initially, the work of raft cleaning was done by hand, using simple tools and horses. In the post-war period, with the advent of the band wagon, cleaning became more efficient and with it the physical impact on the waterways. The scale of the work required to create the floodways is difficult to grasp and the physical effort of the floatation workers is in many ways impressive. But the measures that were good for floating were unfortunately not at all good for the life and ecology in and around the waterways.
Impacts and environmental restoration
In the cleared and canalised watercourses, the total surface area of water decreased while the rate of natural runoff in the surrounding land increased. The stone chests along the banks created barriers between land and water, reducing the biodiversity of the banks and impeding natural processes such as the supply of nutrients and gravel to the watercourse. In many watercourses, the habitats on which fish and many stream-dwelling insects depend largely disappeared, such as shallow areas, spawning grounds and deep pools.
When the lorry arrived, the transport of timber from the waterways to the roads was moved and the era of floating was over. Today, the government provides substantial financial support for water conservation work to restore healthy habitats in flowing watercourses. By applying for such funding, we at Skellefteå Municipality can work on projects that restore the original appearance and natural functions of watercourses by, among other things, restoring greater variety in width and depth. In this way, the biological conditions for life in and around the watercourse are restored.
Our work is always carried out with the necessary permits and in dialogue with the landowners or other stakeholders concerned. For example, this may involve cultural environments such as rafting sites. We also work closely with the County Administrative Board and our local fisheries conservation area associations.
Restoration work in the Bure River is doing good
Since 2015, raft restoration work has been carried out in the main channel of the Bure River close to Bureå village. Already after the first year of the restoration work, we could see trout spawning on the new spawning areas that have been created. The restoration not only creates better conditions for fish and insects in the river, but also better conditions for recreation by creating more fishing spots.
Restoration in the Bure River is a long-term effort. Through field inventory, large parts of the catchment area have been mapped and planning of measures has been proposed. Although the work in the Bure River has come a long way, many different types of measures remain to be taken before the Bure River's aquatic environment meets the requirements set by the EU for the water to achieve 'Good Ecological Status' by 2027.
What does conservation mean for healthy fishing waters?
Skellefteå Municipality is actively working with water and fisheries conservation for healthy waters and attractive sport fishing while striving to achieve the national environmental objectives for our waters. A sustainable future requires a balance in how we use our natural resources and there is a great need for environmental restoration work in the waters. In addition to better fishing, this also contributes to a more attractive countryside throughout the municipality.
Many of our lakes and rivers have been damaged in various ways by industrial development using water. The most significant environmental impact in our watercourses comes from the timber floating industry which continued until the latter part of the 20th century. During this period, many rivers were converted into routes for the transport of timber, from the densely forested hinterland down to the sawmills, which were often located on the coast. Log rafting was extensive and in Västerbotten County alone there were more than 800 miles of public rafting routes in the waterways.
To facilitate the passage of timber, the waterways were cleared of stones, straightened and made narrower, which increased the speed of the water. Dams were built to control the flow of water and thus control the floating of timber. Blocks of stone taken from the waterways were used to build embankments and stone chests along the banks to guide the timber and prevent the logs from getting stuck. Many of these stone chests can still be seen along the waterways.
Why do we do fisheries conservation?
Native species and strains of fish must be present in viable stocks and provide the basis for extensive sport and recreational fishing. Some coastal commercial fishing, particularly in the terminal fishing area, must be allowed to continue but fish stocks must not be endangered.
Associations, organisations, the County Administrative Board, other authorities and municipal administrations must prevent further negative impacts on fish stocks and their habitats. The municipality must promote fisheries management that restores damaged fish stocks. Fish stocks must be able to survive in an environment that is as close as possible to the 'original and unaffected' one.
We also want to create conditions for sport fishing by ensuring waters with viable stocks of "trophy fish". We want to influence fishing in the sea so that viable stocks of salmon and trout can migrate up the wild salmon rivers, while at the same time allowing limited commercial fishing along the coast to continue.