Bonus Projects

INSPIRE - Integrating spatial processes into ecosystem models for sustainable utilisation of fish resources


About the INSPIRE project

Moving beyond existing knowledge, INSPIRE will for the major Baltic fish species take the leap from homogeneous to heterogeneous population dynamics, by accounting for spatial heterogeneity in population models and ecosystem-based fisheries management. Spatial heterogeneity, defined as changes in the abundance of fish over space, which are not explainable by simple random (Poissonian) variability, can have different causes. The overall approach of INSPIRE is mechanistic in the sense that we aim to understand these causes and the underlying processes generating spatial heterogeneity, but also estimate its magnitude.

Aims and objectives

INSPIRE is designed to substantially advance our knowledge on commercial fish species in the Baltic (cod, herring, sprat and flounder). These species form more than 95% of the commercial catches, and represent key elements in the functioning of the Baltic Sea ecosystem(s).

INSPIRE will fill in critical gaps in knowledge that currently exist concerning (i) the mechanisms of changes in spatial distributions of different life-history stages of fish (due to various drivers such as climate, fishing and species interactions), (ii) the impact of such changes on the structure and function of the Baltic ecosystem(s), and (iii) the sensitivity and robustness of analytical fish stock assessment, particularly for flatfish.

To accomplish these goals, INSPIRE will answer the following questions:

  1. What habitat (both pelagic and benthic) conditions characterize the spatial distributions of cod, herring, sprat and flounder?
  2. To what extent do fishing and species interaction affect the local and basin-scale distribution of exploited stocks?
  3. What drives spatial connectivity and migrations of different fish species/populations?
  4. How does stock structure and separation of natural populations impact stock assessment outcomes?


INSPIRE partners have long-standing expertise in designing/performing field surveys and carrying out research on spatio-temporal dynamics of the main commercial fish - cod, herring, sprat, and flatfishes - in the Baltic Sea.

The partners also routinely apply quantitative models for stock assessment and ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Furthermore, the INSPIRE partners have at hand the extensive data series necessary to realistically conduct such complex ecological analyses.

Several partners have also strong expertise in investigating ecological processes in the Baltic Sea by involving other trophic levels than fish as well as external and internal ecosystem drivers. Thus, the INSPIRE consortium is uniquely equipped to answer the formulated key research questions.

Scientific and technological objectives

The scientific & technological objectives of the INSPIRE project are:

  1. To quantify processes generating heterogeneity in spatial distributions of cod, herring, sprat and flounder. This means to quantify habitat associations of the focal species at different life stages.
  2. To quantify and map potential hazards to the connectivity between identified key habitats, and assess the impact of anthropogenic and climatic environmental changes on habitat connectivity.
  3. To quantify the population dynamics and interactions of the focal species in a spatially explicit context.
  4. To develop spatially explicit advice for ecosystem-based fisheries management of Baltic cod, herring, sprat and flounder, accounting for the spatial heterogeneity in fish distributions.


INSPIRE is coordinated by Ph.D. Henn Ojaveer, Estonian Marine Institute University of Tartu, Estonia

Please visit INSPIRE web page for more information visit: