Historical ecology provides new insights for ecosystem management: eastern Baltic cod case study

A recent historical marine ecological case study (cod in the eastern Baltic Sea) is used to show how long-term data and knowledge of fluctuations can contribute to revisions of fishery management policy. The case study first developed new longer analytical time series of spawner biomass and recruitment back to the 1920s, which extended knowledge of population dynamics into a time period when ecosystem state was characterized by temporally varying combinations of exploitation, climate-hydrographic conditions, marine mammal predation and eutrophication. Recovery of spatially resolved historical catch data from the late 1500s to early 1600s also contributed new perspectives to cod population dynamics under alternative ecosystem forcings. These new perspectives have contributed, and will likely continue to contribute to new management policies (e.g., revision of fishery management reference points), which should lead to higher sustainability of the population and fishery yields, and improved overall ecosystem health. These perspectives will likely continue to provide baseline information as ICES and the EU develop new policies based on maximum sustainable yield concepts.