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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 2011-2016.


Key coastal fish species key message map.png

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 here to access interactive maps at the HELCOM Map and Data Service: Abundance of key coastal fish species.


Good status is achieved in in 13 out of the 21 coastal HELCOM assessment units that were assessed (25 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 21 of 25 monitoring locations). 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 locations).

The level of confidence in the assessment differs between areas and regions as a result of differences in monitoring methodology, as well as lower temporal and spatial coverage of monitoring in some countries. The methodological confidence is high in all areas and the confidence in the accuracy of the assessment is high in the 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.


Relevance of the core indicator

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

Changes in the long-term development of the abundance of coastal fish species mainly reflects 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.


Policy relevance of the core indicator

 BSAP Segment and ObjectivesMSFD Descriptors and Criteria
Primary link


  • Natural Distribution and occurrence of plants and animals
  • Thriving and balanced communities of plants and animals
  • Viable populations of species

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 legislation: In some Contracting Parties of HELCOM potentially also EU Habitats Directive and EU Common Fisheries Policy .


Cite this indicator

HELCOM (2018) Abundance of coastal fish key species. HELCOM core indicator report. Online. [Date Viewed], [Web link].

ISSN 2343-2543

Download full indicator report

Abundance of key coastal fish species HELCOM core indicator 2018 (pdf)