​​​​​​​​Key message

This indicator evaluates the status of the Baltic Sea area based on salmon smolt production in rivers flowing into the sea, also making use of additional supporting data on numbers of adult spawners. Determination of whether Good Environmental Status (GES) is reached is based on a comparison of estimated smolt production with an estimated potential smolt production capacity.  The evaluation results presented are mainly based on data from 2014.

Key message figure 1salmon_spawners_and_smolt.jpg 

Key message figure 1: Status assessment results based evaluation of the indicator 'abundance of salmon spawners and smolt'. The assessment is carried out using Scale 2 HELCOM assessment units (defined in the HELCOM Monitoring and Assessment Strategy Annex 4). Click to enlarge​.


In the Bothnian Bay and The Quark areas, smolt production has increased in recent years due to higher numbers of adult spawners ascending the rivers as a result of stricter management measures. GES is achieved in three out of 15 rivers associated with these assessment units, and it is probable that it will be achieved in 1-3 more rivers within the next few years. In the Bothnian Sea area, smolt production is low although showing slight signs of increase. In the Gulf of Finland, smolt production is low but has recently shown signs of improvement and three Estonian rivers are evaluated as having achieved GES, based on expert judgment. Smolt production in rivers flowing into the Baltic Proper is low and does not show any signs of improvement.

The level of confidence of the evaluation is moderate.

The indicator is applicable in all the countries bordering the Baltic Sea, except Denmark and Germany.

Relevance of the core indicator

Salmon is a long-distance migratory large predatory fish species in the Baltic Sea marine ecosystem. Salmon abundance is mainly affected by commercial fishing at sea and by barriers in rivers to reproduction areas. This indicator has a linkage to the number of adult spawners ascending the rivers and, hence, indirectly to the commercial and recreational fishing pressure at the sea and in the river. The indicator also reflects the state of the ecosystem as smolt production is dependent on river connectivity (effect of dams) and the quality of spawning habitats. 

Policy relevance of the core indicator

BSAP segment and objectives

MSFD descriptor and criteria

Primary link


  • Thriving and balanced communities of plants and animals

  • Viable populations of species

 D1 Biodiversity

1.2. Population size (abundance, biomass)

Secondary link

D4 Food-web

4.1 Productivity of key species or trophic groups (productivity)

4.3 Abundance/distribution of key trophic groups and species

D3 Commercial fish and shellfish

3.2 Reproductive capacity of the stock

​Cite this indicator

HELCOM (2015) ​Abundance of salmon spawners and smolt. 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)