The northern pike (Esox lucius) is an iconic predatory fish species of significant recreational value and ecological role in the Baltic Sea. Some earlier studies indicate local declines of pike in the region, but a thorough spatial evaluation of regional population trends of pike in the Baltic Sea is lacking. In this study, we collate data from 59 unique time-series from fisheries landings and fishery-independent monitoring programs to address temporal trends in pike populations since the mid-2000′s in eight countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. In a common analysis considering all time-series in concert, we found indications of an overall regional temporal decline of pike in the Baltic Sea, but trends differed among countries. Individual negative trends in time-series were moreover found in several regions of the Baltic Sea, but predominantly so in the central and southern parts, while positive trends were only found in Estonia and northern Finland. The mix of data used in this study is inherently noisy and to some extent of uncertain quality, but as a result of the overall negative trends, together with the socioeconomic and ecological importance of pike in coastal areas of the Baltic Sea, we suggest that actions should be taken to protect and restore pike populations. Management measures should be performed in combination with improved fishery-independent monitoring programs to provide data of better quality and development of citizen-science approaches as a data source for population estimates. Possible measures that could strengthen pike populations include harvest regulations (including size limits, no-take areas and spawning closures), habitat protection and restoration, and an ecosystem-based approach to management considering also the impact of natural predators.
- Population status
- Predatory fish
- Commercial landings
- Fisheries independent monitoring
- Recreational fisheries