Monitoring requirements

Monitoring methodology

The HELCOM common monitoring on coastal fish is described on a general level in the HELCOM Monitoring Manual in the sub-programme: Coastal fish. 

The HELCOM common monitoring on coastal fish is described in guidelines that were adopted in 2014.


Current monitoring

The monitoring activities relevant to the indicator that are currently carried out by HELCOM Contracting Parties are described in the HELCOM Monitoring Manual in the Monitoring Concepts table as well as in the guidelines for coastal fish monitoring.

Sub-programme: Coastal fish

Monitoring Concepts table

Coastal fish monitoring is rather widespread in the Baltic Sea, and at present covers 34 of the total 42 scale 3 HELCOM coastal assessment units (Monitoring figure 1).  The current monitoring where information on Key species can be extracted to date is less extensive, covering 21 assessment units.

Key coastal fish species Monitoring figure 1.png

Monitoring figure 1. Coverage of current coastal fish monitoring by HELCOM assessment unit scale 3. Dots denotes areas included (black) and not included (white) in the assessment as presented in this report. The white areas represent the assessment units applied in the status assessment. Note that in Finnish coastal areas, status is assessed based on catch statistics from the small-scaled coastal commercial fishery (marked in black frames), which is obtained at sub-basin scale in the Bothnian Sea, The Quark, Bothnian Sea, Ă…land Sea and Gulf of Finland.


There are spatial and temporal gaps in the current monitoring. The current monitoring of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea represents a minimum level of effort and serves as a first step for evaluating the status of coastal fish communities. The current monitoring likely yields insights into major and large-scale changes in coastal fish communities in the Baltic Sea, but unique and departing responses are possible in some areas.

Since monitoring and assessments in Lithuania ceased in 2012, the current assessment only includes data from Lithuania until 2012. In Estonia, coastal fish monitoring is carried out at several locations, but the assessment has only been made for one location (Hiiumaa). In Poland, monitoring has been undertaken since 2014 but no assessment is currently undertaken for Polish waters due to limitations in the assessment approach (requires time-series). No update of data and approval of coastal indicators are available from Germany, hence an assessment of coastal fish in German waters is currently not included. In addition, to this date no data from Russia is included in the assessment.

Description of optimal monitoring

Due to the presence of natural environmental gradients across the Baltic Sea and the rather local appearance of coastal fish communities (and hence their different structures and responses to environmental change), the spatial coverage of monitoring should be improved in some areas in order to enhance the confidence of the evaluation outcome. When designating new potential monitoring programmes, it should be considered that the levels of direct human impact on the coastal fish communities in many of the existing monitoring locations are low, and future locations should include more heavily affected areas.

Moreover, the current monitoring in the northern and eastern parts of the Baltic Sea is designed to target coastal fish species that prefer higher water temperatures and that dominate coastal areas during warmer parts of the year, typically those with a freshwater origin such as perch. Monitoring of species like whitefish, herring, flounder and cod that dominate coastal fish communities in more exposed parts of the coast and during colder parts of the year are, however, rather poorly represented. Monitoring of these species and components should be considered in the future establishment of coastal fish monitoring programmes.