Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Fish, Fisheries and Shellfish

General Information

The monitoring of fish and shellfish cover the abundance, distribution, growth, population dynamics and exploitation of fish in the HELCOM area. Much of the programme is carried out under the auspices of ICES. 

Fish are mobile components of the ecosystem and many are commercially exploited. For many of the sub-programmes there are monitoring surveys, monitoring of commercial catches and direct assessments of population (stock) dynamics.

Sub-programme: Coastal fish

These are fish in the coastal habitats of the Baltic Sea and many of the coastal fish are of freshwater origin. Monitoring is carried out by national monitoring programmes and collated through HELCOM. 

The HELCOM core indicators ‘Abundance of key fish species’ and ‘Abundance of fish key functional groups‘ are linked to the monitoring undertaken in the sub-programme.

Sub-programme: Fish – Migratory fish

The monitoring covers anadromous and catadromous fish. They migrate from more saline habitats to freshwater (or vice versa) to spawn. The more wide ranging species (salmon, seatrout and eel) are monitored and assessed through ICES, whereas rarer species (e.g. sturgeon) and local species (e.g. whitefish) are monitored through local programmes or research projects. These fish have specific habitat requirements for certain stages of the life cycle, but are widely distributed across the HELCOM region.

The HELCOM core indicators ‘Abundance of sea trout spawners and parr‘ and ‘Abundance of salmon spawners and smolt‘ are linked to the sub-programme.

Sub-programme: Fish – Offshore fish

The monitoring of offshore fish includes stocks that are regulated by TACs (Total Allowable Catch) and countrywise quotas and are exploited by large commercial fisheries. They tend to prefer more saline and/or offshore habitats. The grouping includes herring, cod, sprat and flatfish. These species are characterised by large biomasses of fish with changing distributions and growth dynamics.

The HELCOM core indicator ‘Proportion of large fish in the community‘ is linked to the sub-programme.

Sub-programme: Commercial shellfish

The main shellfish populations in the HELCOM region that are currently monitored are predominantly in the west of the region. These include Nephrops in the Kattegat, a few local shrimp populations and blue mussels. In contrast to fish, these shellfish are considered less mobile and many are characterised as more sessile or associated with specific benthic habitat.

Currently there are no HELCOM core indicators linked to the sub-programme.

Sub-programme: Fisheries by-catch

Fisheries by-catch is defined as non-target catch of species by commercial or recreational fisheries. This can include seabirds, marine mammals, non-commercial fish species and benthos.

The  HELCOM core indicator ‘Number of drowned mammals and waterbirds in fishing gears‘ is linked to the sub-programme.

Responsible HELCOM Subsidiary Bodies

State and Conservation


Contact information: HELCOM Secretariat