It is a typical summers day at one of the holiday resorts along the Polish coast. The sandy beaches are crowded. At noon, all the small bars on the boardwalk get busy as hordes of hungry sunbathers come to eat fish & chips.
Traditionally, the average Kowalski (the Polish equivalent to Smith) wants the dish made of “fresh flounder”. But in reality, whether or not it actually is flounder (Platichthys flesus), or perhaps plaice (Pleuronectes paltessa) or dab (Limanda limanda), doesn’t matter that much. From a fish and chips perspective, the target species for the hungry Kowalski has always been “flounder”.
This appetite would have been more in time 100 years ago, when flatfish actually was the main target species for the fishing industry, policy and management in the entire Baltic Sea. The modern fishing in the Baltic Sea started as a flatfish fishery. It was first after World War II, that cod, herring and sprat started to develop and grow, to gradually become todays main target species for Baltic Sea fisheries.
The longest consistent time series of historical catch data for the Baltic Sea dates back to 1906 (Hammer at al in Feistel et al., 2008), and shows an extraordinary fishing regime shift.
For herring, the catches increased five times during the 1950’s, to reach a maximum during the 1970’s. The catch levels of cod reached its maximum ten years later, in the 1980’s.
For sprat, the maximum catch level was reached in the 1990’s –then ten (!) times higher than before World War II.
And what about the flatfish?