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Set amidst the Alps, between Austria and Switzerland, the Principality of Liechtenstein is one of Europe's touristic mini-states. Sometimes considered the fourth smallest country in Europe, it is united with Switzerland by a customs and monetary union.

Mostly mountainous, it lacks lakes but has some small trout streams and brooks, and as a boundary, the once torrential upper Rhine. Although well industrialized, its tradition of good land and water use should preserve its limited sport fishing.

1.AREA:160 km2 
2.POPULATION:28 000 (est. 1985)Density: 175 inh/km2

Liechenstein is situated between Austria and Switzerland, between 47°3' and 47°14'N latitudes and 9°29' and 9°38'E longitudes.

It is only 28 km long (N–S) and 9 km wide (E–W). Its altitudinal range is from 453 m in the Rhine Valley to its highest point at 2 599 m.

Its western and southern borders, one with Switzerland, mostly along the right bank of the Rhine, is 41.1 km. Its eastern border, with Austria, is 34.9 km1.

1 Boundary lengths after Statistisches Jahrbuch 1982 Fürstentum Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein consists of a narrow alluvial strip along the Rhine, and a mountainous area occupying about four-fifths of the country. This latter area, a spur of the Raetian Alps is bisected by the Samina River, flowing from south to north to enter Austria and join the Ill River.

Forests, which occupy a fifth of the country are about 75 percent coniferous (firs, spruces and larches) and 20 percent beech. Alpine meadows occupy about 30 percent of the country. The mountains are largely dolomitic and limestone. Soils are more or less fertile.

There are only 11 towns (communes) in the country; the largest, Vaduz, the capital, has about 5 000 inhabitants.


The climate is Alpine but mild. The average annual lowland temperature is about 9.5°C. The summers are cool, varying between 20° and 28°C. Winters are cold with about 35 days of snow in the Rhine Valley. Tempered by a warm south wind, they rarely go below -15°C. The dry, warm wind, known as the Föhn, dries up fields and meadows and helps spread fires.

The annual precipitation averages about 1 000 mm.


According to Europa (1979), 160 ha or one percent of the country is occupied by “watercourses”.

The largest river, the Rhine (Rhein), bordering Liechtenstein's western boundary, is still relatively small, shallow and sometimes torrential. Frequently subject to flooding, sometimes disastrously (as in 1927), it has been confined by high stone banks. In 1940, its bed was above the valley; today, after exploitation of its gravel, it lies 3 m or less beneath the Rhine Valley. There is a canal parallel to the Rhine for about 25 km. With an average value of about 5–7 m3 in its lower reaches, it serves as an outfall or catchment canal for mountain streams, drainage ditches and the main drainage and sewerage systems. It flows into the Rhine shortly before the frontier. The largest tributaries flowing into the canal are the Lawena, Giessen, Scheidgraben, and Esche.

The country's eastern drainage is through the Samina and its tributaries, the Malbuner Bach and Valorschbach, also in the Rhine drainage.

There are no lakes in Liechtenstein except for an old branch of the Rhine with a surface of 3 ha.

There is a hydroelectric reservoir holding 130 000 m3 on the Samina. Ground water, which is close to the surface, is the chief source of drinking water.

There are also 11 small artificial ponds built since 1972 as part of a nature protection programme. Fishing is allowed in one of these.


Table 1

Pattern of land use in Liechtenstein, 1986

Arable and permanent crops25.00
Permanent pasture37.50
Forests and woodland18.75
Other land18.75

Source: 1987 FAO Prod.Yearbk., 41 (Publ. 1988)

Originally an unproductive area of swamps and mountains, drainage and diking during the last century developed the small area of arable land in the Rhine Valley, and agriculture and pastoral husbandry were predominant for many years. In 1930, 70 percent of the working population of Liechtenstein were farmers, by 1941, 34 percent were still engaged in agriculture, but by 1984 the figure was under 3 percent. The major crops are corn, barley, wheat, potatoes, fruit and grapes. Cattle are still taken up to the mountain meadows, but steep slopes are no longer cultivated or hayed as in the past. Irrigation, drainage and heavy fertilization are necessary, although attempts are being made to reduce the latter to protect the Valley.

Raw materials for industry must be imported, lessening extractive pollution. Most industry, the main economic activity, is light, thus lessening the chances for water pollution. Metal working, ceramics, textiles and food processing are typical industries.

There is some lumbering (about 10 000–12 000 m3 per year) but forests are maintained primarily to combat erosion. Forests which have been cut must be replanted in three years and slopes are afforested to prevent torrential landslides (avalanches of stones and mud) or Rüfen.

Two alpine rivers are affected by use for hydroelectric power: the Samina and Lawena, the former with a reservoir. The installed capacity, circa 1984, was 10 500 kW.

The ground water level of the Rhine Valley has been lowered after intense removal of gravel in the river bed. The result today is that 28 km of brooks are dry. There is no other mining.

There is a good system of paved roads (320 km), many footpaths, and 18.5 km of railroad. Road density was 2.1 km/km2 in 1979 and passenger car ownership is very high, about 516 per 1 000 persons (1986).

All of the 11 villages of Liechtenstein are linked to purification plants, thus lessening water pollution. All wastewater is purified before reaching the Rhine.

Despite the small size of the country, both hunting on 19 hunting grounds, and angling are land uses which contribute to the Government's revenue. The rise of sport fishing is in keeping with Liechtenstein's change from an agricultural economy to one of industry.

Tourism is an important industry in this picturesque land (there were almost 86 000 tourists in 1985), but most tourists are transients and their presence does not affect fishing.


The principal fishing in Liechtenstein is for the native brown trout (Salmo trutta), the introduced rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and grayling (Thymallus thymallus). Most waters are good trout waters exclusively reserved for sport fishing.

The FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics (Vol. 36 for 1973, published 1974) has no record of fish catch in Liechtenstein during the 1938–61 period, but the Yearbook has recorded nominal “catches” since 1962 (see Table 2). The amounts ascribed are, of course, meaningless, and furthermore appear to be completely erroneous, since neither a commercial capture fishery nor aquaculture for food exist in Liechtenstein.

Table 2

Nominal catches in the inland waters of Liechtenstein, 1962–87a (in tons)

 Freshwater fishes

0.0 negligible/insignificant

00 more than zero but less than 50 t

0 more than zero but less than half a ton

Source:1962–69 Yearb.Fish.Stat.FAO, 36 (Publ. 1974)
1970–73Yearb.Fish.Stat.FAO, 40 (Publ. 1976)
1974–75Yearb.Fish.Stat.FAO, 48 (Publ. 1980)
1976Yearb.Fish.Stat.FAO, 52 (Publ. 1983)
1977–81Yearb.Fish.Stat.FAO, 54 (Publ. 1984)
1982–87Yearb.Fish.Stat.FAO, 64 (Publ. 1989)

a Catch, theoretically commercial, as reported by FAO, but erroneous (see text)

With the exception of the Rhine, only about 50 ha of the principality affords fishing. All of this is sport fishing by about 250 anglers, who take about 3 000 kg of fish annually.

Table 3 shows the reported catch for 1978.

Table 3

Sport fish catch in Liechtenstein, 1978

Kanal6 6001 688
Stausee Steg800195
Rhine2 630804
Total10 1282 712

Source: Rechenschaftsbericht der Fürstlichen Regierung, 1978

The catch in the River Rhine in 1978 can be further broken down as follows: 2 300 trout (653 kg), 91 grayling (37 kg) and 239 other fish (114 kg).

Angling in Liechtenstein is done on a permit basis (daily, weekly and yearly). In 1978, for example, a total of 746 permits of all types were sold. Of these, 349 members of the Sportfischerein Liechtenstein purchased permits, youths and non-members purchased 143, and visitors purchased 209 (28 percent).

There is no commercial pond fish culture, but the local sport fishing association stocks both brown trout and rainbow trout in local waters.


All hunting and fishing is controlled by the State, which rents the rights to inhabitants of the country. Both rental of fishing rights and issue of fishing permits provide income to the State.

There is a treaty with Austria on the establishment of common principles for the regulation of the Rhine.


Obviously, the size of the country and its waters make any fishery insignificant except to the residents and some of their visitors. Nevertheless, the rivers are protected by the Constitution so that injury (e.g., through pollution) will be minimized and a limited sport fishery - primarily for local use - will continue. The careful land and water use generally practised in Liechtenstein and this should continue to aid its small fisheries.


Broggi, M.F., 1977 Nature conservation and landscape management in Liechtenstein. Parks, 2(3):14–15

Broggi, M.F., 1980 Comment to EIFAC on a draft report on Liechtenstein by W.A. Dill (11 Feb. 1980). (Letter of 20 March 1980 from Liechtensteinische Gesellschaft für Umweltschutz, Vaduz)

Greene, B., 1967 Liechtenstein: valley of peace. Vaduz, Liechtenstein-Verlag, 118 p.

Krantz, W. (Ed.), 1978 The Principality of Liechtenstein. A documentary handbook. Vaduz, Press and Information Office of the Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein. 292 p.

Liechtenstein, 1982 Statistisches Jahrbuch, 1982. Fürstentum Liechtenstein. Vaduz, Amt für Volkswirtschaft, 350 p.

Raton, P., 1970 Liechtenstein. History and institutions of the principality. Vaduz, Liechtenstein-Verlag, 151 p.

U.S. Department of State, 1976 Bureau of Public Affairs, Liechtenstein. Background Notes Ser., Wash., (8610):4 p.

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