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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

Recruitment failure of coastal predatory fish in the Baltic Sea coincident with an offshore ecosystem regime shift

Ljunggren, Lars; Sandstrom, Alfred; Bergstrom, Ulf; Mattila, Johanna; Lappalainen, Antti; Johansson, Gustav; Sundblad, Goran; Casini, Michele; Kaljuste, Olavi; Eriksson, Britas Klemens


The dominant coastal predatory fish in the southwestern Baltic Sea, perch and pike, have decreased markedly in abundance during the past decade. An investigation into their recruitment at 135 coastal sites showed that both species suffered from recruitment failures, mainly in open coastal areas. A detailed study of 15 sites showed that areas with recruitment problems were also notable for mortality of early-stage larvae at the onset of exogenous food-intake. At those sites, zooplankton abundance predicted 83 and 34% of the variation in young of the year perch and pike, respectively, suggesting that the declines were caused by recruitment failure attributable to zooplankton food limitation. Incidences of recruitment failure match in time an offshore trophic cascade that generated massive increases in planktivorous sprat and decreases in zooplankton biomass in the early 1990s. Therefore, sprat biomass explained 53% of the variation in perch recruitment from 1994 to 2007 at an open coastal site, where three-spined stickleback also increased exponentially after 2002. The results indicate that the dramatic change in the offshore ecosystem may have propagated to the coast causing declines of the dominating coastal predators perch and pike followed by an increase in the abundance of small-bodied fish.


coastal fish recruitment; offshore-coastal coupling; perch; pike; stock declines; zooplankton diet

Published in

ICES Journal of Marine Science
2010, volume: 67, number: 8, pages: 1587-1595

Authors' information

Ljunggren, Lars
Swedish Board of Fisheries
Swedish Board of Fisheries
Swedish Board of Fisheries
Mattila, Johanna
Åbo Akademi University
Lappalainen, A.
Johansson, G.
Swedish Board of Fisheries
Swedish Board of Fisheries
Swedish Board of Fisheries
Eriksson, Britas Klemens
University of Groningen

UKÄ Subject classification

Fish and Aquacultural Science

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