The latest developments for fish stocks in the Baltic

ICES advice for fishing opportunities in the Baltic Sea in 2025 has been published.
Published: 31 May 2024

​​​​​​​​The Baltic Sea ecosystem is suffering from the combined impacts of many human-induced pressures. Eutrophication is one of the main pressures in the region. Climate change is accelerating the effects of eutrophication faster here than in other ecoregions​, leading to the degradation of essential benthic habitats, changes in food webs, and other ecosystem processes. Achieving sustainable fisheries management or recovering depleted fish stocks is proving to be increasingly challenging and, in some cases,​​​ will also require ecosystem restoration actions.​ 

This year's advice again highlights that the long-term stock development and short-term sustainable catch advice varies across the different species and stocks​​. In the central Baltic area, the advice for herring is increasing relative to last year as the stock is increasing in the short-term. Whereas the sprat stock which has been fluctuating at a relatively high biomass is now declining due to some weak year classes in the last three years, consequently the advice is for a catch reduction.

The Gulf of Riga herring stock has been sustainably managed over the last decade and both stock size and catch advice are increasing. While the advice for Western Baltic herring is still for zero catch, the management measures implemented to date have significantly reduced fishing mortality and the stock is now beginning to recover at a slow rate.

The two plaice stocks in the Baltic Sea continue to be lightly fished and their biomass have been increasing. The stock status for the various flounder stocks is thought to be relatively good. However, today's advice highlights that several flatfish stocks show low condition, which may be an indirect effect of low bottom oxygen content.   

In the past, cod fisheries were highly important in the Baltic, sustaining fisheries and the economy in many costal communities. However, the latest advice confirms the very poor status of eastern Baltic cod with no change to the advice zero catch. The advice for western Baltic cod last year was ve​​​ry low catches. Both stocks are at such a low level that the collection of adequate scientific data to monitor stock development is becoming increasingly challenging. Stock recovery only seems possible if habitats can be restored and environmental conditions are significantly improved.

The advice for Atlantic Salmon in the Baltic (excluding the Gulf of Finland) continues to be for zero catch in 2025 from the mixed-stock at-sea fisheries (both commercial and recreational in the offshore and coastal areas). This is because vulnerable and less vulnerable stocks are caught together in those fisheries. The advice further elaborates, that up to 40 000 salmon could be caught if fisheries are confined to certain coastal areas during the spawning migration, thus avoiding fish from vulnerable rivers. The advice for the Gulf of Finland includes a precautionary reduction in the catch because a quantitative estimate of fishing mortality for certain stocks are lacking.

Colm Lordan, Chair of ICES Advisory Committee, commented that “while the stock developments show a mixed picture in the short-term, the longer-term prognosis for the Baltic is not a positive one. The ecosystem is degraded and unexpected changes are becoming more frequent. ICES community is working hard to develop a better scientific understanding of the underpinning process and connections between the ecosystem, exploitable fish species, and the communities relying on them". 

Later this year, ICES will publish a fully revised Ecosystem Overview for the Baltic Sea ecoregion which will give a more holistic assessment of the region.

​View the latest ICES Advice in our library.​

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The latest developments for fish stocks in the Baltic

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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