​​​​​​​​​​​Key Message​

This core indicator evaluates the abundance of typical species of fish, such as perch and flounder, in the coastal areas of the Baltic Sea, to assess environmental status. As a rule, good status is achieved when the abundance is above a set site and species-specific threshold value.

The current evaluation assesses status during the period 2011-2015.


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


Good status is achieved in in 13 out of the 21 coastal HELCOM assessment units that were assessed (24 of 43 monitoring locations). Generally, good status is more often reached in areas in the northern and eastern parts of the Baltic Sea where perch is the key species (good status is achieved in 20 of 25 monitoring areas). In the western and southern areas where flounder is the key species, the status is more often not good (good status in four of 18 monitoring areas).

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. 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 Latvian, Lithuanian and Danish coastal areas, and the confidence in spatial representability is highest in the Finnish and Danish 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.


Coastal fish communities are of high ecological and socio-economic importance in the Baltic Sea, both for ecosystem functioning and for the recreational and small-scale coastal commercial fishery. As such, the state of coastal fish communities generally reflects the ecological state in coastal ecosystems.

Changes in the long-term development of the abundance of coastal fish species mainly reflect effects of changes in the level of human exploitation (fishing and habitat degradation), natural predation pressure, increased water temperature and altered hydrographical conditions, and eutrophication in coastal areas.


BSAP segment and objectives

MSFD descriptor and criteria

Primary link​


  • Natural ​distribution and occurrence of plants and animals

  • Thriving and balanced communitites of plants and animals

  • Viable population of spe​cies​

D1 Biodiversity

D1C2 The population abundance of the species is not adversely affected due to anthropogenic pressures, such that its long-term viability is ensured

D3 Commercial fish and shellfish

D3C2 The spawning stock biomass of populations of commercially-exploited species are above biomass levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield

Secondary link 

Hazardous substances

  • Healthy wildlife


​Other relevant legislationIn some Contracting Parties of HELCOM potentially also EU Habitats Directive and EU Common Fisheries Policy


HELCOM (2017) Abundance of coastal fish key species. 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)