Introduction to fish and fisheries in the Baltic Sea
Roughly one hundred fish species inhabit the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea, and their distribution is mainly governed by salinity levels. Therefore, composition of fish communities varies in different regions of the Baltic Sea in relation to the different habitat characteristics, salinity, water temperature, oxygen content and nutrient availability.
Fish populations of the Baltic Sea are affected by fishing, eutrophication, oxygen depletion and high levels of hazardous substances, as well as by natural stresses such as cold winter temperatures and varying levels of salinity.
All the Baltic Sea coastal states except Russia are members of the European Union since 2004. For those HELCOM Contracting States being EU Member States, the fisheries sector is governed by the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), for which the EU has exclusive Community competence. These HELCOM Contracting States, being also EU Member States, are obliged to follow the principles of the Community legislation under the CFP in fisheries conservation and management.
Click here for more information about commercial fisheries and the management of the Baltic stocks.
The role of HELCOM
The Helsinki Convention is dedicated to the protection of the marine environment of the Baltic Sea area. The Convention comprises the water body and the seabed, including their living resources and other forms of marine life. According to the Convention, marine resources shall be used sustainably and each Contracting Party shall individually and jointly take all appropriate measures to conserve natural habitats and biological diversity and to protect ecological processes (Article 15). HELCOM has several ministerial declarations and Recommendations agreeing on measures which are linked to fisheries activities and the use of fish stocks.
The HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) and its nature conservation and biodiversity segment consists of actions concerning fisheries and conservation of Baltic fish populations. The Baltic Sea Action Plan consists of overall ecological objectives, which can be measured by targets and indicators, and actions for reaching the ecological objectives.
The governments of the Baltic Sea states and the European Community have agreed in the Baltic Sea Action Plan that the Baltic Sea shall become a model of good management of human activities, where all fisheries management will be developed and implemented taking into account a holistic view of the Baltic ecosystem in order to enhance the balance between sustainable use and protection of marine natural resources. The HELCOM Contracting Parties also urged competent fisheries authorities to take all the necessary measures to ensure that, by 2021, populations of all commercially exploited fish species are within safe biological limits, reach Maximum Sustainable Yield, and are distributed through their natural range, and contain full size/age range. In order to achieve this, and other BSAP actions, ministers urged/requested competent authorities, in co-operation with the Baltic Regional Advisory Council (RAC) under the EU Common Fisheries Policy and HELCOM, to collaborate closely.
For more information about Baltic fish and fisheries, see the following HELCOM web-pages:
Last updated: 3 December 2008