• Baltic Sea;
  • Finnish coast;
  • Fish productivity;
  • Environmental factors;
  • Bayesian network


Environmental conditions play a crucial role in the distribution and abundance of fish species in any area. Much research has been attributed to the requirements and tolerance limits of commercially exploited fish species. It is rare, however, that studies have been able to address the relative importance of potentially restrictive environmental factors; extensive enough to allow for estimation of the effect of several environmental factors through the fishes' life span. The coastline of Finland in the northern Baltic Sea offers a unique natural experimental setting that can be used to assess the relative importance of various environmental factors for the species occupying it. The area includes major variations in several crucial environmental factors: salinity, temperature regime, represented by winter ice duration, coastline characteristics, and eutrophic status. Furthermore, Finland has collected extensive and spatially representative data of water quality and environmental factors, as well as a long and extraordinarily spatially detailed data set of commercial catches of several fish species. In this article, we make an attempt to correlate the environmental data to the commercial catches of fish species, assuming that the commercial catches reflect, to some reasonable degree, the productivity of that species in that area (compared to other areas and combinations of environmental factors, not to other species). We use a Bayesian network approach to examine the sensitivity of the species to the environmental factors. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012; 8: 445–455. © SETAC