History of fishery

History of fishery

History of Fishery in Carnikava Municipality

In 1938 having expeditions around Latvia, which included also visiting fishermen of Vidzeme and Ainazi, poet Vilis Veldre said: “An old fisherman of Vidzeme reminds an upright craftsman. All of his life has passed in hard work, but at the end of the day, if he has lived a modest life- he is no poor man.”

This can also be said about the fishermen of Carnikava, because those who lived with water around them worked day and night – that is how years and even centuries passed, because fishery was one of the most significant ways to sustain livelihood. Due to the proximity of the sea and the river Gauja, this region was made for sturdy fishermen. Lamprey, salmon, sea trout, whitefish, herring, eels, were among the fish traditionally fished here. Several fishery techniques were practiced in Carnikava, for example, seine fishing at sea, fishing with hooks, fishing on lake in winter, usage of weirs for catching lampreys and salmon. Several types of nets were used. The local fishermen weaved their own fishing nets from linen, after some time, cotton from fabrics were used and only in 20th century fishermen started to use pre-made nets. Also, fishermen today darn their own nets and teach the techniques to the following generations of fishermen.

One of the traditional symbols of Carnikava is the fishing technique used to passively catch lampreys and salmon, which is the weir. Weirs were set up in the shallow areas of Gauja where lampreys and salmon were migrating. The weir is a special footbridge from which the lamprey baskets are immersed in the stream. Fishermen of Carnikava made the special footbridges in June and took them down right before the first ice. Special materials were used to build these constructions and the lamprey baskets. The fishing of lampreys and salmon started in the times of Livonia.

A special fishery house existed in Carnikava. Documentation shows that already in 19th century a house with fish farm in basement and a lamprey cookery existed. Construction of contemporary fishery house took place in 1933. The newly founded house had cooking stations, storage places and a watchtower. The production expanded in kolkhoz time. This building conducted lamprey degustation and excursions. Special lamprey trains coursed through here in 1930s. There is also the special recipe of Carnikavas’ lampreys. Since 2015, the lamprey of Carnikava is included in European Union geographical indications and traditional specialties.

Carnikava is rich in water sources, that is way fishing was conducted not only in Gauja, but also in the gulf of sea and surrounding lakes. Only short period of time in Spring the fishermen had time to darn the nets and seines.

Below we offer to look into the fishing techniques that were economically significant to the fishermen of Carnikava

Herring fishing was really beneficial due to the amount of herring available. Nets were used throughout the year to fish herring. Seine was used only until May. The seines were around 60-120 meters long and 3 meters wide. Certain quotas were issued in the Soviet times. The making of smoked herring became popular in the end of 19th century.

Salmon fishing was almost as profitable as herring fishing. Selling salmon was easiest from June to September, in this period, the salmon is fattest. Historically, salmon was fished using seines and weirs. A cage for catching salmon also was used, shortly before the WWII, salmon population was increased using these cages. Nowadays salmon fishing in Carnikava has stopeed due to ecological problems the population in rivers has decreased.

The fishermen on Carnikava practiced eel fishing with hooks. Eel fishing was done when the fishing of salmon was not possible. The central wire that was 2 kilometers long had 1000 hooks. Nowadays fishermen are allowed to use only 2 hooks. Earthworms or even small fish were used for bait. Unfortunately, nowadays eel fishing is not possible.

Another traditional fishing technique was used to catch lampreys. To catch them, specially constructed weirs were used and used in modern times. Lampreys were also fished using brooms – specially designed wood tool, which was massive. This technique nowadays is prohibited. A person could also catch lamprey with bare hands, but it is impossible to hold onto it. Lampreys were fished in Gauja during winter, but also fishing on lakes was popular, as there are many found around Carnikava.

Nowadays the fishing traditions are changing. Many fishing techniques are forgotten and are in the minds of old fishermen or historical photos. But here are two teams of fishermen in Carnikava that conduct coastal fishing by the sea and waits for the newly-born lampreys from Gauja.

From history, the word lamprey and Carnikava are automatically associated together. Fishermen of Carnikava used weirs to fish lampreys. Fishing with weirs was popular in rivers like Daugava, Gauja Salaca. With the help of this construction, migrating lampreys were caught passively. Sometimes by the end of weirs, cages for catching salmon were built. Usage of weirs were popular until the mid-1960s. Afterwards, special nets were used. The construction of weirs was a long and time-consuming process

When the season of lamprey fishing started, fishermen came in the evening put the lamprey baskets or nets in the water and stayed overnight in fishermen houses. Several check-ups during the night were needed and only in the morning the baskets were lifted out the water for drying. The fishing of lampreys was not easy, it was possible only in the dark as they did not move during daytime.

In the territorial region of Carnikava in the river Gauja there were 5 lamprey weirs in the 19th century. They had 300 meters of intervals from one another to maximize the caught amount. Right before the first ice, the wiers were taken down.

August is usually the time when Sea festival has been celebrated and a new season for lamprey fishing can be started. The lamprey reminds how historic and effective the protection of fishing population has been in the past. The jurisdiction and laws that were followed in the past through our ancestor traditions have helped to save the fishery field in Carnikava.

Before proclamation of Latvia, the supervising of lakes, sea and the fish population was done by the local landlords. Local residents had to follow several rules. There were also regulations on the techniques used for fishing, as those who changed the river’s flow were not allowed. If there were fishermen who only caught fish for their family, they could do it for free, as they did not influence the environment in a major way. First artificial practice to increase the population of fish in the lakes and sea was done in 1880. Carnikava invited specialist Alvīns Ķirsis to increase the population of fish by establishing his own fish farm. After 4 years in 1884, A. Ķirsis freed more than 84 000 fish in Gauja, mostly salmon. Nowadays, the number of fish freed in Gauja is around 120 000.

Another problem for lamprey population was the necessity to let some lampreys to spawn. To solve this problem, several lamprey baskets in weirs had big enough gaps to let lampreys through so they can finish their spawning process.

Only in 1903, the first formal fish prevention department was made, which planned the fishery control. Scientist Pāvels Borisovs made a research about the significance of fish resources in water bodies around Carnikava like Dzirnezers, Dūņezers and Gauja. In the research, the scientist highlighted the practices region of Carnikava was implementing to sustain fish resources and suggested that other regions follow the good practice.

After the First World War, country-wide control and jurisdiction was made to sustain fish resources. The laws were established based on the best practices of other countries and fishermen traditions. There were many departments and specialists involved to control and supervise the fishery field in Latvia, which implies the significant role of this field in Latvia.

Regarding restrictions, there were several affecting illegal fishing methods. This is the most important aspect that damage the fish population; therefore it is possible to serve jail time up to 6 months for repeated offence.

Important role played the control and supervision of lamprey fishing. Special instruction was developed for weirs. Like before, fishermen had to obtain special license to have the possibility to construct and catch lampreys. Lamprey weirs were guarded by the local law enforcement to make sure no illegal fishing activities are done.

When Soviet times came, many techniques and tools for fishing changed. The first kolkhoz established in 1949. Profit before the Soviet Union regime was divided between the fishermen, but now the profit was handed to the country. The amount fished each year increased, that can be explained by the new tools and technologies used for fishing. This facilitated economical growth in the region, but also left a mark on nature and future generations. Aside from changed fishing traditions, the Soviet Union time came with changes also in jurisdiction of fish resources and prevention of nature pollution. There were strict controls on the techniques used for fishing and how much fish was caught. In addition, there were several incentives to artificially facilitate fish population around the water bodies in Carnikava. The kolkhoz in collaboration with other fish farms were able to grow 400 000 trout, which were freed in Dzirnezers and Līgatne. Fishery specialists also tried to introduce new fish species in the region. At one point in Līgatne, million of lampreys and trout were growing in fish farms and afterwards divided- some of the fish were sold to other regions, some were freed in the regional water bodies.

In the 80s USSR and Carnikava felt the after-effects of pollution from the massive fishing activity. Specialists concluded that the fishing activities were not controlled for long-term sustainability, leading to pollution and decrease in fish population. In addition, several projects, like experimental gravel extraction from the depths of the sea, which left substantial consequences on nature.

It can be noted that in early Soviet times, there were no publication in mass media about illegal fishing. Only in the end of 80s first news coverage can be found and that does not mean that there were no illegal fishermen.

Only in 1990s fishermen were able to sell their catch and keep the profit for themselves and their families.

History of Fishery in Saulkrasti Municipality

Historically, fishery has been the main occupation for the local residents in the coastal region of Vidzeme. Dating back to feudalism times, landlords supervised the fishermen activities, receiving the biggest part from the catch. There are several fish camps from Pabaži to Kuiviži. Life in a fishermen family is hard, unstable, and even dangerous. Small boats were used for fishing with self-made nets. Most fishes were sold for little money, so many of the fishermen were on the brink of poorness.

5 villages are combined in the municipality of Saulkrasti – Bādciems, Pabaži, Pēterupe, Neibāde and Zvejniekciems. The fishermen of Pabaži were known for having the biggest catch of salmon. This shows in the pictures with the fishermen boasting about their catch. (Pictures: 1-8, the fishermen of Pabaži, 1820s and 1830s). Good boats and nets are needed to catch these fishes. Boats and nets were taken care of by those left at coast. (Pictures: 9;10). Local fishermen soon enough understood that working together is easier and more profitable.

Fishermen unions started to form in the beginning of the century. Also, local residents of Pēterupe established Fishermen Union in Coastal region of Vidzeme. (Pictures: 11;12). This union was the foundation of the later established cooperative union called “Jūras Zivs”. This union included 110 fishermen from nearby regions. The use of motorboats increased and there was a need to expand boat landing places in Zvejniekciems.

Kārlis Ulmanis - Latvian president of that time, visited Zvejniekciems in 1937. Acknowledging the growing fishery industry, the president promised support from government’s side and initiated building the port in Skulte. (Picture: 13). After finishing the construction of the port, the cooperative union received two automobiles to deliver fish products, but one year before opening the port, one of the storage room burns down. (Picture: 14). With the support of government and donations a new storage room can be opened at the same time as the port.

But the rapid growth of fishery industry is stopped by the World War II. During the period, it was prohibited to go into sea with boats. In 1944 a general from Soviet’s army commands fishermen Jānis Laudurgs to fulfill a difficult task – transportation of army from Saulkrasti to Riga by sea. The whole operation was 28 days long. After regime of Soviet Union took place in Latvia, the cooperative union “Jūras Zivs” was established as fishery kolkhoz “Zvejnieks”. (Pictures: 20-27)

The members of kolkhoz started to divide, and competition started to take place between the fishermen. In the first year of operation, the total amount of fish caught was 1.5 times larger than before. In the following years, a growth in members and fished amount increased. After World War II, fishermen are introduced with a new technique, which helps to facilitate the amount of caught fish. (Pictures: 29-33)

Another new tool used for fishing is the trawl. It was only possible to use trawls when the kolkhoz received two ships – MB-24 and MB-28. (Picture: 34) These ships were powerful enough to pull the trawls used for fishing. These ships were used to set sail and fish by the Estonian borders and Kurzeme.

The fishermen fleet grew rapidly, not only MB ships are received but also bigger – MRT and RB ships are now in the arsenal of the port. These ships were used to fish in the Baltic Sea. (Pictures: 35-39). First expedition ship VZT-4390 was received in 1956. This allowed kolkhoz members to set sail for longer voyages. Ivan Smirnov, the first captain of the long journey took sail to the waters of North Sea. (Pictures:40;41). The fish are not only caught, but they are also transported home and unloaded. (Pictures: 42-47). After that - processed. (Pictures: 48-55).

An intriguing history is for the fishing ship RB-30 “Lādoga”. It is a transformed military ship, which was patrolling in lake Lādoga. Afterwards, it was used for kolkhoz needs but from 1977 to 1981, it contributed to building of Vanšu Bridge. In 1982 it had its’ last journey back to Novoladog, the Russian city it was built in and now stands as a monument. (Picture:56)

From the beginning of kolkhoz “Zvejnieks”, it had no administrative building. Therefore, in 1950 an architect Marta Staņa was invited to work towards the construction of an administrative building and in result - a cultural house was made. But there were 5 projects the architect designed. In 1956 the cultural house with administrative spaces was finished. (Picture: 57). Secondary school of Zvejniekciems. (Picture: 58). Two multi-story apartment buildings. (Picture: 59). And summer-house complex “Melnalķšņi”.

Nowadays the fishing ships occupy small part of the Skulte’s port. Two fishing companies operate in this area – LLC “Varita” and LLC “A.I.&CO”. They have 4 fishing ships – “Varita”, “Zane”, “Una” and “Sencis” and have 20 fishermen and 6 captains. They fish in the maritime territories of the Gulf of Riga and Baltic Sea. (Pictures: 60-64).

History of Fishery in Salacgrīva Municipality

In 1897 there were 572 fishermen counted amongst the coastal border of Latvia. 209 of them lived in the coastal region of Vidzeme, the rest of them in Kurzeme. There were 3 times more fishermen who operated in rivers. To fish in the sea and rivers, the fishermen had to give the biggest part of the catch to the closest landlord. The biggest hopes for profit were in Spring, the season for fishing herring. The fishermen were able to deliver their fish with steam trains, that were scheduled between Pärnu and Riga. Autumn was the season for salmon and river lamprey.

In 1932, there were 3 motorboat unions – in Liepāja, Salacgrīva and Ainaži. Mostly foreign motors were bought. Some part of the cost was financed by the loans of local governments.

Newspaper - “Limbažu Vēstnesis” in 1937 informed about the economical influence of fishery sphere. Several million Lats are received from fishery activities. More than 4050 fishermen are participating in maritime activities, most of them in fishing. 2500 have fishing as their main souce of income, 1500 as a side business. Latvian fishermen were catching more fish than other Baltic States. Each fisherman caught around 4 tons of fish every year. The number grew each year.

After 1940, coastal region fishermen started to use passive fishing techniques. Fishermen started to use seines, weirs, and trawls. Trawls were a promising method, because they are connected to a fishing ship and are pulling behind the ship. This is the most mechanized method and does not require much manual work. Nets and hooks that were used before trawls were not withstanding big winds and storms that are common in the sea, which was not the case for trawls. To use trawls, a knowledgeable and trained crew was needed on the fishing ship. In 1953, Latvian fishery industry prepared for fishing in ocean. As the most suitable option for this long voyage was the medium trawler VZT-332.

In 1979 from June to September, the members of fishing kolkhoz “Brīvais vilnis” caught 31 462 kilograms of fish in total.

Lamprey fishing with weirs is a historic method, which was used in Daugava, Venta, Gauja and other rivers. Nowadays this practice can be found only in Salaca and Svētupe.

14 households were practicing lamprey fishing with weirs in 1867. The weirs were located in Jaunliepiņi, Jaunzāģmeži, Klāviņi, Košķi, Ķesteri, Lekunga, Linurga, Mellurga, Pāžekalni, Rāmnieki, Tīrumnieki, Vecnacki, Veczāģmeži and Jēcēni.

One of the oldest documentations regarding fishing with lamprey weirs in Salaca is Johan Christoff’s drawing of manor in Vecsala, which shows the letter A that symbolizes the location of weir in Salaca. Lamprey weirs are sophisticated constructions from wood materials. Only ropes and metal wires were used to keep the wooden parts connected to make it more stable and prevent the stream of river to destroy the weir. The weir consisted of the underwater basket, where lampreys were caught.

Each year the lamprey weirs are setup from scratch. The weirs are built based on the same methods that were used in the past. The construction of weirs starts right after midsummer celebration. To build one, two people are needed to work and requires a lot of effort.

To fish lampreys, not only the skill of the fisherman is important. It is impossible to catch lamprey in daylight, so most of the fishermen stay overnight, to control and supervise the lamprey baskets, which were more like nets. They were checked every hour during the night to make sure they are intact, and replacement is not needed. In addition, wind from the west, the right water level is beneficial to catch lampreys.

Up until 1990s, to make these special lamprey baskets, pine wickers were used to darn the nets. The wickers were boiled before using and after they were prohibited, linen fabrics were used. The wickers were supplied by the nearby farmers and traders. The oldest documentation of wicker selling is in 1853, where a retired soldier Mačs Virsis grew and cut the wickers and sold them to the local fishermen. To cut and sell the wickers, a special license was needed from the local government. Nowadays, the only lamprey baskets made with the historical method are found in museums.

One of the most prominent fishermen who caught and processed lampreys in 1920s and 1930s was the landlord of “Upesjennu”. His name was Bernhards Skuja. Together with his brother they established a company and supervised two lamprey weirs. Afterwards, Roberts and Eižens- the sons of Bernhards followed father’s footsteps.

In 1926, Bernhards Skuja founded lamprey production facility by the shore of the river. Their own caught lampreys were now processed and packaged. The building was divided in 3 parts, in the Eastern wing there was a sauna. In the middle was the furnace used to cook lampreys. And in the Western wing there was the packaging room. After packaging was done, the processed lamprey was taken to the storage room in the basement.

The son of Bernhards remembers: “Everything was done on our own, processing was done differently for different clients, restaurants needed the product one way, the traders needed it the other way, but we still provided qualitative product”

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