Skip to main content
SLU:s publikationsdatabas (SLUpub)

Rapport2021Öppen tillgång

Fishing cyprinids for food - Evaluation of ecosystem effects and contaminants in cyprinid fish

Dahlin, Iris; Levin, Sandra; Olsson, Jens; Östman, Örjan


We conclude that a coastal cyprinid fishery may have positive effects on the ecosystem and with regard to levels of toxic contaminants, the fish is safe for humans to eat. There is, however, a need to scale up the targeted cyprinid fishery in order to evaluate and quantify the effects on the ecosystem. Scaling up from the pilot scale fisheries requires a change in consumer’s attitude and product development, so that larger quantities of cyprinid fish can be harvested and sold. Several wild fish stocks in the Baltic Sea are in poor condition and today the supply of fish for human consumption in Sweden heavily relies on farmed and imported fish. At the same time, eutrophication and climate change has led to increasing populations of cyprinid fish (e.g. bream, roach, ide) in many coastal areas of the Baltic Sea, which threatens to violate Swedish and international environmental goals. During recent years, there has been an increased interest to fish cyprinids for human consumption in Finland and Sweden. This report evaluates potential ecosystem effects resulting from an increased cyprinid fishery, and how to monitor and assess these effects in the Baltic Sea. We also assess potential barriers to increased cyprinid fisheries for human consumption due to food safety issues resulting from environmental contaminants and market incentives for fishers. In a literature review on biomanipulation targeting cyprinids in lakes, we show that removing cyprinids as a measure to improve water quality has been successful in around 60% of the cases where it has been tested. In the Baltic Sea, however, there have only been a few pilot projects of biomanipulation of cyprinids. Differences between coastal areas and lakes makes it unlikely that the same success rate as in lakes would also apply to coastal areas, especially when considering lowering of nutrient concentrations. Still, we think that a sustainable fishery targeting cyprinids may promote at least positive effects on water transparency and macrophytes in the Baltic Sea on a longer time-scale. In line with results from our literature review, we suggest a monitoring program for evaluation of a targeted cyprinid fishery in coastal areas. Based on the potential ecosystem effects of a cyprinid fishery we suggest that monitoring should prioritize fish community composition, water transparency, chlorofyll α, and submerged macrophytes. For more thorough scientific evaluations, the monitoring program should also include abundance of phyto- and zooplankton, as well as and nutrient and oxygen levels. An increased use of cyprinids from the Baltic Sea as human food will also have societal impacts. To examine if human consumption of cyprinid fish entails any increased risk of exposure to contaminants, we analysed concentration levels of several toxins (mercury, cadmium, dioxins, PCBs, PFAS and PBDE) in bream, ide and roach from five sites along the Swedish coast of the northern Baltic Sea. Our results show that, based on the regulations in Sweden today, cyprinids meet all health regulations for human food. Based on recommendations of weekly intake there are no apparent health risks of consuming cyprinid fish from the Baltic Sea at least weekly. However, since knowledge and regulations of certain environmental toxins are poor or non-existent, we believe it is important to conduct a more comprehensive study, especially for PFAS. An increased fishery targeting cyprinids would diversify the small-scale coastal fishery in Sweden, but the currently low demand makes it risky for fishers to invest in equipment and distribution becomes relatively expensive.

Publicerad i

Aqua reports
2021, nummer: 2021:20ISBN: 978-91-576-9924-4
Utgivare: Department of Aquatic Resources, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences