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Institute of

OF Baltic Sea Fisheries


Herring recruitment

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© Thünen-Institut/P.Polte
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DCF (Data Collection Framework): Investigations on the ecology of herring larvae in the Greifswalder Bodden and the Western Baltic Sea, and delivery of a recruitment index for the herring assessment (N20)

To ensure an sustainable management of fish resources, natural mortality of a species' offspring (recruits) has to be incorporated into stock assessment methods.In the Data Collection Framework the Rügen Herring Larvae Survey monitors herring recruitment and with  the annual recruitment index provides an important forecast instrument for stock dynamics of Western Baltic herring. Additionally, the survey represents an essential base line to investigate the drivers and stressors of natural mortality reflected in the recruitment index every year.

Background and Objective

Shallow, inshore systems, such as Greifswald Bay are important spawning grounds for Western Baltic herring populations. Results of the larval herring monitoring program are nowadays established data bases for ICES stock assessments and represent the earliest means in herring ontogeny  to forecast stock dynamics. The aim of this extensive monitoring programs is to receive the annual recruitment index as a scientifically sound data base for sustainable resource management. Furthermore the data of the extensive time series represent a unique base line to increase understanding of the ecological mechanisms structuring the reproduction success of herring in the Baltic Sea. Studies include e.g. investigating ecological functions of Greifswald Bay as retention area for larval herring, the impact of food availability on larval growth and the importance of spawning substrate, predator-prey interaction and extreme climate events.


Based on abundance and growth patterns of herring larvae along the season an index for reproduction success (N20) is developed.  This index is set in relation with abundance of young-of-the-year juveniles sampled during hydroacoustic surveys during autumn. Together these metrics provide a fishery independent measure for the year class strength of herring offspring (recruitment index). Mechanistic research approches include hydrographic dispersal modeling as well as empirical investigations of egg development on inshore spawning beds and  field- and laboratory experiments to study predator-prey relationships.


Permanent task 1.2001

More Information

Project status: ongoing


  1. 0

    Bekkevold D, Berg F, Polte P, Bartolino V, Ojaveer H, Mosegaard H, Farrell ED, Fedotova E, Hemmer-Hansen J, Huwer B, Trijoulet V, Moesgaard Albertsen C, Fuentes-Pardo AP, Gröhsler T, Pettersson M, Jansen T, Folkvord A, Andersson L (2023) Mixed-stock analysis of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus): a tool for identifying management units and complex migration dynamics. ICES J Mar Sci(fsac223):1-12, DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsac223

  2. 1

    Moyano M, Illing B, Akimova A, Alter K, Bartolino V, Börner G, Clemmesen C, Finke A, Gröhsler T, Kotterba P, Livdane L, Mittermayer F, Moll D, Nordheim L von, Peck M, Schaber M, Polte P (2022) Caught in the middle: bottom-up and top-down processes impacting recruitment in a small pelagic fish. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries, DOI:10.1007/s11160-022-09739-2

  3. 2

    Huang AT, Alter K, Polte P, Peck M (2022) Disentangling seasonal from maternal effects on egg characteristics in western Baltic spring-spawning herring Clupea harengus. J Fish Biol 101(6):1428-1440, DOI:10.1111/jfb.15210

  4. 3

    Finke A, Nordheim L von, Kotterba P, Polte P (2022) Impact of spawn concentrations on Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) egg survival in Baltic Sea inshore spawning areas. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 275:107961, DOI:10.1016/j.ecss.2022.107961

  5. 4

    Polte P, Gröhsler T, Kotterba P, Nordheim L von, Moll D, Santos J, Rodriguez-Tress P, Zablotski Y, Zimmermann C (2021) Reduced reproductive success of Western Baltic herring (Clupea harengus) as a response to warming winters. Front Mar Sci 8:589242, DOI:10.3389/fmars.2021.589242

  6. 5

    Moll D, Kotterba P, Jochum KP, Nordheim L von, Polte P (2019) Elemental inventory in fish otoliths reflects natal origin of atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) from Baltic Sea juvenile areas. Front Mar Sci 6:191, DOI:10.3389/fmars.2019.00191

  7. 6

    Dodson JJ, Daigle G, Hammer C, Polte P, Kotterba P, Winkler G, Zimmermann C (2019) Environmental determinants of larval herring (Clupea harengus) abundance and distribution in the western Baltic Sea. Limnol Oceanogr 64(1):317-329, DOI:10.1002/lno.11042

  8. 7

    Polte P, Gröhsler T (2018) 2017 Western Baltic spring spawning herring recruitment monitored by the Rügen Herring Larvae Survey. ICES HAWG Rep 2018:868-871

  9. 8

    Nordheim L von, Kotterba P, Moll D, Polte P (2018) Impact of spawning substrate complexity on egg survival of Atlantic Herring (Clupea harengus, L.) in the Baltic Sea. Estuaries Coasts 41(2):549-559, DOI:10.1007/s12237-017-0283-5

  10. 9

    Moll D, Kotterba P, Nordheim L von, Polte P (2018) Storm-induced Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) egg mortality in Baltic Sea inshore spawning areas. Estuaries Coasts 41(1):1-12, DOI:10.1007/s12237-017-0259-5

  11. 10

    Polte P, Kotterba P, Moll D, Gröhsler T, Nordheim L von (2018) Time series of the Ruegen Larval Herring N20 Index and potential reasons for a declining larval production. In: ICES Benchmark Workshop on Pelagic Stocks (WKPELA 2018) : 12.-16.02.2018, Copenhagen. Copenhagen: ICES, pp 1-10

  12. 11

    Polte P, Oeberst R, Gröhsler T (2017) Annex 5h: Rügen herring larvae survey (RHLS). ICES WGIPS Rep 2017:284-287

  13. 12

    Polte P, Kotterba P, Moll D, Nordheim L von (2017) Ontogenetic loops in habitat use highlight the importance of littoral habitats for early life-stages of oceanic fishes in temperate waters. Sci Rep 7:42709, DOI:10.1038/srep42709

  14. 13

    Kotterba P, Moll D, Hammer C, Peck M, Oesterwind D, Polte P (2017) Predation on Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) eggs by the resident predator community in coastal transitional waters. Limnol Oceanogr 62(6):2616-2628, DOI:10.1002/lno.10594

  15. 14

    Kotterba P, Moll D, Nordheim L von, Peck M, Oesterwind D, Polte P (2017) Predation on larval Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) in inshore waters of the Baltic Sea. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 198:1-11, DOI:10.1016/j.ecss.2017.08.017

  16. 15

    Paulsen M, Clemmesen C, Hammer C, Polte P, Malzahn AM (2016) Food-limited growth of larval Atlantic herring Clupea harengus recurrently observed in a coastal nursery area. Helgol Mar Res 70:1-12, DOI:10.1186/s10152-016-0470-y

  17. 16

    Gröger JP, Hinrichsen HH, Polte P (2014) Broad-scale climate influences on spring-spawning herring (Clupea harengus, L.) recruitment in the Western Baltic Sea. PLoS One 9(2):e87525, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0087525

  18. 17

    Polte P, Zimmermann C (2014) Der Rügen-Heringslarvensurvey des Thünen-Instituts: Hintergründe, Kritik und Anwendung der Ergebnisse. Fischerei Fischmarkt MV(1)

  19. 18

    Bauer RK, Gräwe U, Stepputtis D, Zimmermann C, Hammer C (2014) Identifying the location and importance of spawning sites of Western Baltic herring using a particle backtracking model. ICES J Mar Sci 71(3):499-509, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst163

  20. 19

    Kotterba P, Kühn C, Hammer C, Polte P (2014) Predation of threespine stickleback (Gastrosteus aculeatus) on the eggs of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) in a Baltic Sea lagoon. Limnol Oceanogr 59(2):578-587, doi:10.4319/lo.2014.59.2.0578

  21. 20

    Polte P, Kotterba P, Hammer C, Gröhsler T (2014) Survival bottlenecks in the early ontogenesis of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus, L.) in coastal lagoon spawning areas of the western Baltic Sea. ICES J Mar Sci 71(4):982-990, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst050

  22. 21

    Sommer R, Polte P (2013) Ausflug in die Kinderstube des Herings. Nordkurier(24.05.2013):3

  23. 22

    Reum JC, Essington TE, Greene CM, Rice CA, Polte P, Fresh KL (2013) Biotic and abiotic controls on body size during critical life history stages of a pelagic fish, Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii). Fisheries Oceanogr 22(4):324-336, DOI:10.1111/fog.12025

  24. 23

    Stybel N, Haller I, Polte P, Lempe F (2013) Engagement für nachhaltige Entwicklungen and Küsten und im Meer. Fischerei Fischmarkt MV(4):37-40

  25. 24

    Polte P (2013) Ruegen herring larvae survey and N20 larval index. Working Document WKPELA. Benchmark Workshop on on Pelagic Stocks (WKPELA): 4-8 February 2013. Copenhagen: ICES, 10 p

  26. 25

    Polte P, Worsoe Clausen L (2013) Stock components and early life cycle ecology of Western Baltic spring spawning herring - prospects of recent research results with potential implication for stock assessment strategy. Working Document WKPELA9. Benchmark Workshop on on Pelagic Stocks (WKPELA): 4-8 February 2013. Copenhagen: ICES, 13 p

  27. 26

    Bauer RK, Stepputtis D, Gräwe U, Zimmermann C, Hammer C (2013) Wind-induced variability in coastal larval retention areas: a case study on Western Baltic spring-spawning herring. Fisheries Oceanogr 22(5):388-399, DOI:10.1111/fog.12029

  28. 27

    Heiler J, Hammer C, Kotterba P, Polte P (2012) Die vertikale Verteilung von Heringslarven im Greifswalder Bodden. Inf Fischereiforsch 59:25-29, DOI:10.3220/Infn59_25-29_2012

  29. 28

    Oeberst R, Dickey-Collas M, Nash RDM (2009) Mean daily growth of herring larvae in relation to temperature over a range of 5-20°C, based on weekly repeated cruises in the Greifswalder Bodden. ICES J Mar Sci 66(8):1696-1701, DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsp193

  30. 29

    Oeberst R, Klenz B, Gröhsler T, Dickey-Collas M, Nash RDM, Zimmermann C (2009) When is year-class strength determined in western Baltic herring? ICES J Mar Sci 66(8):1667-1672, DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsp143

  31. 30

    Oeberst R, Klenz B, Dickey-Collas M, Nash RDM (2008) Variability of the year-class strength of western Baltic spring spawning herring (Rügen herring) - which factors determine the year-class strength? Copenhagen: ICES, 14 p

  32. 31

    Oeberst R (2007) A new stratification of the Rügen herring larvae survey (RHLS) in the Greifswalder Bodden. Copenhagen: ICES, 8 p

  33. 32

    Oeberst R, Klenz B (1999) Zur Optimierung des Laboraufwandes bei Heringslarvensurveys im Greifswalder Bodden. Inf Fischwirtsch Fischereiforsch 46(1):17-20


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