Ecological hypotheses for a historical reconstruction of upper trophic level biomass in the Baltic Sea and Skagerrak

Brian MacKenzie, J. Alheit, D.J. Conley, P. Holm, C.C. Kinze

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Fish and marine mammal populations in the Baltic Sea and Skagerrak have undergone major fluctuations over the past five centuries. We summarize how these fluctuations may have depended on various forms of predation (e.g., cannibalism, fishing, hunting) and environmental processes. The best- documented long-term fisheries in this region are the herring (Clupea harengus) fisheries near Bohuslan, western Sweden, and in the Oresund. These fisheries have been important since at least the 1200s and appear to be partly climatically driven. However, in the rest of the Baltic, information about fisheries for herring and other fish species is rare until after 1900. During the 20th century, while the Baltic underwent eutrophication, the biomass and landings of three fish species (cod (Gadus morhua), herring, and sprat (Sprattus sprattus)) all increased, whereas the biomass of marine mammals (grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), ringed seals (Phoca hispida), harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)) decreased. The relative roles of exploitation, marine mammal predation, and environmental variability (e.g., eutrophication, major inflows of saline water, climate change) on the long-term dynamics of key fish species is not clear and requires increased collaboration among historians, fisheries and marine mammal ecologists, oceanographers, and climatologists.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)173-190
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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