Eating fish is part of nutritional well-being: fish is an excellent source of protein and contains vitamin D as well as beneficial fatty acids. In Finland, 94 per cent of the consumers eat fish, and particularly appreciate domestic fish. However, the production of domestic fish is not in its current scope sufficient to alone meet the demand. By improving the competitiveness of Finnish fish, we can create opportunities for success to both local and national businesses, as fish is multiplied in value from primary production through to retail trade and catering businesses.

Although the ecological state of the Baltic Sea is a cause of great concern, we still have several species of fish that could be used on a clearly larger scale both as food and as feed. The results of the research project could be utilised to demonstrate that there is plenty of fish in the Baltic Sea with contaminant levels that need not be worried about in terms of health risks, and the use of this fish stock is profitable to the national economy.

If the fish stock of the Baltic could be utilised more extensively than at present as raw material for the feed industry, the competitiveness of domestic fish and fishing and fish farming would be significantly improved in both the national and the international market. Such entrepreneurship not only increases the protein self-sufficiency of Finland, but also supports the objectives specified in the Finnish bioeconomy strategy. Reliable research will be needed also in the future for use as the basis of risk management related to the levels of dioxin, PCB compounds and other environmental contaminants in fish.

Dioxin and PCB levels that exceed limit values render the Baltic herring and salmonid fish unfit for the international food and feed market. However, the food laws give Finland a permanent derogation to allow on the Finnish market fish species with dioxin levels that exceed the maximum permitted levels laid down in EU Regulations. This requires, however, that Finland present to the EU new research data on a regular basis and, in addition, establish and execute surveillance programmes for the continuous assessment of the marine environment, as part of the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

The Marine Strategy of the Finnish Government is designed to produce data on the species and habitat types found in the Baltic Sea, as well as on the quality of seawater and the environmental pressures resulting from human activities, and the effects of these pressures. Information about the state of the sea and the pressures affecting the marine environment facilitates the planning, targeting and implementation of actions for the improvement of the state of the sea. The effectiveness of these actions can also be assessed in the same context.

A permanent reduction in the exposure of the population to environmental contaminants can only be achieved through restrictions of emissions. This requires efforts in terms of both international and national regulations, and the surveillance schemes included in the Baltic Sea Action Plan, for example, are utilised in this work.


The research project is designed to produce more information about the levels of dioxin and PCB compounds as well as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFAS) and heavy metals in the domestic Baltic fish species that are of commercial significance and primarily used in Finland for food, and specified as species for which the objective is to increase their use as food and potential raw material for feed. The project also studies the levels of contaminants in fish in lake areas that are the most important in terms of professional fishing and fish eating.

The research project provides further information and establishes the following data by regions in the Baltic Sea and the lake areas:

  • The accumulation of dioxin and PCB compounds in herrings of different age and size (divided into six categories by size) and salmon, and in the other fish species referred to in the derogation i.How much have the levels of these compounds changed in the 21st century ii.Do the possible changes in the levels affect the beneficial use of fish in domestic consumption, the feed industry as well as domestic and international marketing.
  • How have levels of dioxin and PCB compounds changed in other fish species.
  • The accumulation of brominated fire retardants, perfluoroalkyl sulfonates and heavy metals in different fish species, and have the levels changed in comparison with earlier research.


New data obtained on contaminant levels in Finnish wild fish will: promote and guide the utilisation of fish resources by increasing domestic consumption and strengthening the export marketing of fish, and provide valuable background information for the beneficial use of fish in feed production supplement the assessment of exposure, thus supporting consumer guidance and communication about the benefits of fish consumption create a basis for providing more specific recommendations for eating fish, and defining exceptions to these recommendations promote recreational fishing and fishing tourism promote the exploitation as food and feed of fish caught by selective fishing help prioritise food control support the fulfilment of marine surveillance obligations as well as environmental monitoring and protection


dioxins, food safety, food, fisheries, competitiveness, heavy metals, feed, state of the environment

Responsible project leader:

Marika Jestoi, PhD, Senior Officer, Finnish Food Authority, Product Safety Unit

Person at Finnish Food Authority responsible for the project:

Marika Jestoi, PhD, Senior Officer, Product Safety Unit

In cooperation with:

National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL);
Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke);
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Project status:

In progress

Year of commencement:


Year of completion:


Project is financed by:

Prime Minister's Office Finland (VNK/338/48/2016)


Page last updated 7/10/2019