​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Key Message

This core indicator evaluates the abundance of selected functional groups of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea. As a rule, Good Environmental Status (GES) is achieved when the abundance of piscivores (i.e. fish that feed on other fish) is high and the abundance of cyprinids (i.e. fish that feed on e.g. benthic invertebrates) is within an acceptable range. The status of functional groups of coastal fish in the Baltic Sea has been evaluated by assessing the status of piscivores and cyprinids during the period 2009-2013.

Key message 1a _piscivores status.jpgKey message 1a _cyprinidsstatus.jpg

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 to enlarge.


For piscivores, GES is achieved in 27 (out of a total of 47) monitoring locations, and for 15 coastal HELCOM assessment units out of the 24 that were evaluated. For cyprinids, GES is only achieved in half of the 24 monitored locations and thus seven of the 16 evaluated assessment units. In the locations classified as sub-GES, the abundance of cyprinids was too high in seven out of 12 locations and too low in four Swedish locations and in the only assessed Estonian location.  

The environmental status indicated by piscivores is slightly better compared to that indicated by cyprinids. Generally, the status of piscivores is better in more northern areas compared to southern and western areas. For cyprinids, the GES is achieved in coastal waters along the Swedish coast in the Quark, Bothnian Sea, Åland Sea, Northern Baltic Proper and Bornholm Basin, along the Finnish Archipelago Sea coast and along the coasts of Latvia and Lithuania.

The level of confidence of the assessment differs across areas, but is higher in those having the longest data series. Data on cyprinids is lacking from more southern and western areas.

The indicator is applicable in the coastal waters of all the countries bordering the Baltic Sea.

​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 the recreational and small-scale coastal commercial fishery. As such, the state of functional groups of coastal fish generally reflects the ecological state in coastal ecosystems.

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 or 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 communities of plants and animals

​D1 Biodiversity

1.6 Habitat condition (condition of typical species or communities, relative abundance and/or biomass, physical, hydrological and chemical conditions)

Secondary link

​Hazardous substance

  • ​Healthy wildlife

D4 Food webs

4.3 Abundance/distr​​​​ibution of key trophic groups and species

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

​Cite this indicator

HELCOM (2015) Abundance of coastal fish key functional groups. HELCOM core indicator report. Online. [Date Viewed], [Web link]


Download full indicator report

​​​Core indicator report – web-based version October 2015 (pdf)

Extended core indicator report – outcome of CORESET II project (pdf)