​​​​​​​​​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 Environmental Status (GES) is achieved when the abundance is above a set site and species specific boundary. The current evaluation assesses status during the period 2009-2013.

Key message figure 1_coastal_key_fish_status.jpg

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.

GES is achieved in 29 out of a total of 49 monitoring locations and in 16 out of the 24 coastal HELCOM assessment units that were assessed. Generally, GES is more often reached in areas in the northern and eastern parts of the Baltic Sea where perch is the key species. In the western and southern areas where flounder is the key species, the environmental status is more often sub-GES.

The level of confidence of the assessment differs across areas, and is higher in areas with the longest data series dating back to the late 1990s. The monitoring areas in the northern and eastern parts of the Baltic Sea, where the environmental status is better, are generally considered as reference areas for environmental monitoring with low human impact, whereas the southern areas are generally more impacted.

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


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 increased water temperature and eutrophication in coastal areas and/or changes in the level of human exploitation or predation pressure.


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

1.2. Population size (abundance biomass)

D3 Commercial fish and shellfish

3.2 Reproductive capacit​y of the stock

Secondary link

Hazardous substances

  • Healthy wildlife

D4 Food webs

4.3 Abundance/distribution of key trophic groups and species

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


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

Download full indicator report

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

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