Eastern Baltic cod recruitment revisited - dynamics and impacting factors
The Eastern Baltic cod abundance started rapidly to increase in the mid-2000s as evidenced by analytical stock assessments, due to increased recruitment and declining ﬁshing mortality. Since 2014, the analytical stock assessment is not available, leaving the present stock status unclear and casting doubts about the magnitude of the recent increase in recruitment. Earlier studies identiﬁed main factors impacting on cod reproductive success to be related to the loss of two out of three spawning areas in the 1980s caused by lack of major Baltic inﬂows with a concurrent reduction in salinity and oxygen. Other important factors include prey availability for ﬁrst-feeding larvae, egg predation by sprat and herring and cannibalism on juveniles, all in one way or the other related to the prevailing hydrographic conditions. These factors cannot explain increased reproductive success in the last decade, as the period was characterized by an absence of largescale Baltic inflows since 2003 and persistent anoxic conditions in the bottom water of the deep Baltic basins. This questions the perception of the increased recruitment in later years and challenges our present understanding oi cod recruitment dynamics in the Baltic Sea. ln this contribution, we review evidence from the recent literature supplemented by information from latest research cruises to elucidate whether cod reproductive success indeed has increased during the last decade, and we suggest the key processes responsible for the recent dynamics in cod recruitrnent and outline directions for future research.