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Article

Coastal Fisheries in the Eastern Baltic Sea (Gulf of Finland) and Its Basin from the 15 to the Early 20th Centuries

Plos One. 2013. Vol. 8. No. 10.
Lajus J., Kraikovski A., Lajus D.

The paper describes and analyzes original data, extracted from historical documents and scientific surveys, related to Russian fisheries in the southeastern part of the Gulf of Finland and its inflowing rivers during the 15- early 20th centuries. The data allow tracing key trends in fisheries development and in the abundance of major commercial species. In particular, results showed that, over time, the main fishing areas moved from the middle part of rivers downstream towards and onto the coastal sea. Changes in fishing patterns were closely interrelated with changes in the abundance of exploited fish. Anadromous species, such as Atlantic sturgeon, Atlantic salmon, brown trout, whitefish, vimba bream, smelt, lamprey, and catadromous eel were the most important commercial fish in the area because they were abundant, had high commercial value and were easily available for fishing in rivers. Due to intensive exploitation and other human-induced factors, populations of most of these species had declined notably by the early 20th century and have now lost commercial significance. The last sturgeon was caught in 1996, and todayonly smelt and lamprey support small commercial fisheries. According to historical sourcescatches of freshwater species such as roach, ide, pike, perch, ruffe and burbot regularly occurred, in some areas exceeding half of the total catch, but they were not as important as migrating fish and no clear trends in abundance are apparent. Of documented marine catch, Baltic herring appeared in the 16th century, but did not become commerciallysignificant until the 19th century. From then until now herring have been the dominant catch.