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Koitajoki River Documented in a New Seining Film

First published on 09/01/2019, and last updated on 10/28/2019

By Tero Mustonen, from Snowchange, Member of ICCA Consortium in Finland.
Directly extracted from Snowchange’s website.

Snowchange, the community of Ala-Koita fishermen, PrettyGoodProductions and the Interreg SHAPE project release a new film, “Koitajoki”. This short documentary focuses on an iconic, but highly endangered cultural fishery in Karelia – river seining.

Koitajoki is a cross-border stream between Russia and Finland. It is the home of the runesinger villages who inspired Kalevala, the Finnish and Karelian epic. Despite ecological damages the river remains a vibrant wilderness area with strong local knowledge.

Koitajoki is a mystic river flowing in the Finnish-Russian borderlands. It is the ancestral home of Sámi and Karelian cultures. The villages of Koitajoki were the home of the rune singers- for example families like the famous Sissonen contributed to the Finnish national epic Kalevala that went on to inspire J.R.R. Tolkien in his works.

There is no other river like Koitajoki

It was the spawning stream of land-locked Atlantic Salmon and endemic whitefish. But a century of change brought huge changes – hydropower, industrial logging, peat production that transformed the catchment area and the river itself. Whitefish still lingers on.

Koitajoki at Möhkö. © Eero Murtomäki

And so do the fishermen, Koitajoki seiners, who have kept their traditions and skills alive in the village of Ala-Koita. This film documents a seining day on Koitajoki and highlights a unique fishery on a river worthy of UNESCO recognition for cultural heritage.

Rune singing may have ended but the unique river seining still continues.

The people are still on the river.

The whitefish is still there.

Salmon spawning areas are being restored.

Oral histories and stories of the river linger.

Koitajoki may still have a chance 

The home stream of rune singers, unique boreal villages and endemic species – women and men fishing on their home river, both depending on each other – the people and the river. Snowchange Co-op and other partners are now working to register Koitajoki catchment into the UNESCO World Heritage area to make sure it can be preserved for future generations.

Seining spots on a stretch of Koitajoki river. They are orally known and passed on.

Furthermore, Snowchange has channelled resourced to purchase and restore marshmires and wetlands in the Koitajoki system already since 2018 under the Landscape Rewilding initiative. We are working with a range of partners to install catchment-wide measures and support other initiatives to bring Koitajoki and its diverse cultures back to health.

Kesonsuo, a fully intact marshmire in the Koitajoki catchment area.©Eero Murtomäki

Featured image : Seiners of Koitajoki © Snowchange.