​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Key Message

This core indicator evaluates the abundance of selected functional groups of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea. As a rule, good status is achieved when the abundance of piscivores (i.e. fish that feed on other fish) is above a site-specific threshold value, and the abundance of cyprinids or mesopredators (i.e. mid trophic-level fish) is within an acceptable range for the specific site. The status of functional groups of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea has been evaluated by assessing the status of piscivores and cyprinids/mesopredators during the period 2011-2015.


Key message figure 1: Status assessment results based evaluation of the indicator 'abundance of selected functional groups of coastal fish'. The assessment is carried out using Scale 3 HELCOM assessment units (defined in the HELCOM Monitoring and Assessment Strategy Annex 4). Click on individual maps to enlarge.

For piscivores, good status is achieved in 24 out of a total of 29 monitoring locations, and for 13 coastal HELCOM assessment units out of the 16 that were evaluated. For cyprinids/mesopredators, good status is only achieved in 15 of the 27 monitored locations and thus in seven of the 16 evaluated assessment units. In the locations classified as not good, the abundance of cyprinids was too high in all but one (Hiiumaa, Estonia) of the 12 locations.

The environmental status indicated by piscivores is hence slightly better compared to that indicated by cyprinids. Generally, the status of piscivores is better in more northern areas compared to more central areas. For cyprinids/mesopredators, good status is not achieved in the Swedish part of the Quark and Åland Sea, in all Finnish coastal waters except for the Bothnian Bay, and in Estonian and Latvian coastal waters.

The level of confidence of the assessment differs across areas and regions as a result of differences in monitoring methodology as well as in some countries poor temporal and spatial coverage of monitoring due to poor financial support for monitoring. The methodological confidence is high in all areas and the confidence in the accuracy of the assessment is high in majority of the assessment units. The confidence in the temporal coverage is high in all areas except for the Latvian and Lithuanian areas, and the confidence in spatial representability is the highest in the Finnish areas but poorer in other countries.  

The indicator is operational in the coastal waters of most countries bordering the Baltic Sea. For the time being, it is not applicable in some areas where coastal fish monitoring data are scarce and further studies as well as time series are needed to yield a reliable assessment of these areas. In the future, in line with increasing knowledge, the indicator might undergo further development.

​Relevance of the core indicator

The state of coastal fish communities reflect the ecological state in coastal ecosystems as well as the effects of recreational and small-scale coastal commercial fishery. Changes in the long-term development of the abundance of functional groups of coastal fish reflect the effects of increased water temperature and eutrophication in coastal areas and/or changes in the level of human exploitation (fishing and habitat degradation) and natural predation pressure.

Policy relevance of the core indicator

BSAP segment and objective​​s

MSFD descriptor and criteria

Primary link


  • Natural distribution and occurrence of plants and animals

  • Thriving and balanced commu​nities of plants and animals

D4 Food webs

D4C2. Trophic guilds, balance of total guild abundance

Secondary link

​Hazardous substance

  • ​Healthy wildlife


Other relevant legislation: In some Contracting Parties of HELCOM potentially also EU Habitats Directive

​Cite this indicator

HELCOM (2017) Abundance of coastal fish key functional groups. HELCOM core indicator report. Online. [Date Viewed], [Web link].

ISSN 2343-2543

Download full indicator report

HOLAS II component - Core indicator report – web-based version July 2017 (pdf)