On the way to healthy status: new HELCOM indicators launched
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. 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 and 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 Plan, 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.