Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

On the way to healthy status: new HELCOM indicators launched

​Abundance of Indicators on coastal and migratory fish are the first of 19 new HELCOM  launched this fall, as a result of careful preparations by HELCOM experts. For each core indicator the environmental status is evaluated against a quantitative boundary that defines Good Environmental Status (GES). Defining GES through core indicators provides an important tool for assessing the status as well as guiding management towards a healthy Baltic Sea.Judging by the new coastal fish indicators, approximately half of the assessed coastal areas of the Baltic Sea are in good environmental status.  Since populations of coastal fish species are rather stationary, they have good potential in reflecting the general environmental state of the assessment unit. Coastal fish are doing better in the northern and eastern parts of the Baltic Sea, where perch is a key species while in the west an​​d south, where flounder is a key species, the environmental status is poorer.  The entire Baltic Sea from north to south is roamed by adult salmon feeding in the open sea. The abundance of salmon smolt and spawning adults in rivers flowing into the Bothnian Bay is at a level reflecting good environmental status, while in other areas the numbers are clearly below the aspired level. Capture of both young salmon and sea trout as by-catch in fisheries as well as migration barriers in rivers continue to be two of the reasons for GES not being achieved in some areas.  Good Environmental Status (GES) is a key concept in HELCOM Baltic Sea Action , which have set the objectives and actions for reaching GES for the entire Baltic Sea by 2021. The Baltic Sea is in GES when the sea is ecologically diverse, the waters are clean, and the use of the sea is sustainable. Fish are an integral part of the marine ecosystem and maintaining healthy fish communities is thus a key concern in environment protection.   Fast facts – coastal fishFor coastal fish key species, GES is achieved in 2/3 (16 out of the 24) coastal HELCOM assessment units that were evaluated.Piscivores – fish feeding on other fish – indicate GES in a majority of the evaluated coastal assessment unit areas.Cyprinids – fish feeding on smaller animals – indicate GES in half of the evaluated coastal assessment unit areas.Coastal fish communities have significant socio-economic and ecological importance in the Baltic Sea, both for ecosystem functioning and for the recreational and small-scale coastal commercial fishery. Long-term changes in the abundance of coastal fish species are mainly caused by the effects of increased water temperature and eutrophication and also due to human exploitation.  Fast facts – migratory fish​ Salmon is a long-distance migrating big predatory fish species in the Baltic Sea marine ecosystem.The number of juvenile salmon – or smolt – has increased in the Bothnian Bay and Quark area. In the Bothnian Sea as well as Gulf of Finland, the young salmon production is showing slight increase but is still low. On the other hand, the weak smolt production in rivers flowing into the Baltic Proper are not showing any signs of improvement.Sea trout populations indicate a sub-GES state in most of the Baltic Sea coastal areas, with a good environmental state only being indicated in the south-western parts. The current evaluation shows that the status reflected by populations of sea trout is sub-GES in most Baltic Sea coastal areas.>>   * *Note for editorsThe Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.* * *> For more information, please contact:>Ulla Li Zweifel> Professional Secretary> HELCOM> Tel. +358 46 850 9198> Skype: helcom64> E-mail: ullali.zweifel(at)>>>Johanna Laurila> Information Secretary> HELCOM> Tel: +358 40 523 8988> Skype: helcom70> E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

Indicators on coastal and migratory fish are the first of 19 new HELCOM core indicators launched this fall, as a result of careful preparations by HELCOM experts.