Laboratory of Fish Ecology


Since 1949 the Laboratory of Marine Ecology (LME) has continued its research related to the functioning of ecosystems in the largest water bodies in Lithuania: Kaunas Water Reservoir, Nemunas River, Curonian Lagoon and Baltic Sea. This research focuses on fish communities, species ecology and the effects of various abiotic and biotic factors on fish stocks and their diversity. Arising from intensive development of various industries and economic activities that affect aquatic ecosystems, LME is active in assessing their impacts and developing plans for mitigating the effects on fish stocks, as well as facilitating the recovery of already affected stocks.
LME regularly undertakes assessments and research projects related to the industrial activities of Klaipėda Port, Būtinge Oil Terminal, Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal, Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant, Kaunas Hydroelectric Power Plant and similar industrial objects, to determine their impacts on fish stocks and dependent fisheries.
LME is the premier research group with expertise on marine and coastal freshwater fish communities in Lithuania, and is the country’s representative on international expert working groups under ICES or HELCOM. LME is actively involved in research and monitoring to fulfil Lithuania’s obligations regarding species and habitat protection in accordance with EU directives or other international conventions.
In addition to LME’s key role in delivering applied science driven by state and industry needs, the laboratory expanded its research portfolio during 2008–2013 with increased emphasis placed on performing fundamental research. This included experiments related to estimating the effects of environmental factors (e.g. water salinity and temperature) on the behaviour and physiological responses of freshwater fish species, thereby improving understanding among stakeholders, who are highly concerned about processes in the natural environment of the Curonian Lagoon.
Collaboration with several overseas research centres in Taiwan and Department of Primary Industries, Queenscliff Research Centre (DPI), Australia, resulted in new fundamental studies applying sophisticated microchemical and stabile isotope analyses of fish otoliths; these studies revealed new information about migratory behaviour as well as habitat utilisation throughout their life span. These collaborative studies resulted in a series of manuscripts published or destined for publication in prestigious international research journals.
A newly established collaboration with DPI and Fish Ageing Services Pty Ltd (FAS) in Australia resulted in the transfer of knowledge and technology, and acquisition of equipment to LME. This collaboration pushed LME forward to build its competence in otolith research aiming to establish a reputation for the delivery of high calibre international scientific services. Currently, LME recruits and trains both undergraduate and post-graduate students of Vilnius University. In the near future it is expected to start exchanging samples with FAS to achieve the highest quality under FAS control and to provide advanced training for the most skilled LME staff at the company premises in Australia. A formal agreement with Marine Research Station under Taiwan Academy of Sciences should result in fundamental studies on European eel; if successful, then this should result in a device for avoiding mortality from hydropower generation, thereby supporting EU efforts for eel protection.
Recently, a PhD project on Great Cormorant effects on fish populations and community in the Curonian Lagoon, was successfully defended in November 2012. This was the first PhD thesis completed in LME in the last decade and its finding are of international significance. Recently, LME has directed its attention towards recruiting new young postgraduate students; in 2012 and 2013 two new PhD projects has commenced in collaboration with Swedish ecologists.
LME is continuing the process to build on its recent advances towards increased competence among its staff in addressing priority research topics. This will be achieved by recruiting young talented graduates and training LME staff via existing international collaboration and through the establishment of new collaborative projects. LME plans to continue its current research activities, however, it will also endeavour to pay additional attention to the application of LME expertise to practical research needs by developing new services and products that enable it to be internationally competitive. Recently planning has commenced to ensure that projects driven by state, industry or client needs are complemented by appropriate research into fundamental aspects of fish ecology and fisheries science. This is increasing LME’s international profile through publication of research findings in international scientific journals.