Science

Cod and monkfish under threat from climate change, study warns

Consumers may have to change their eating habits due to declining fish stocks, according to scientists.

Popular dishes such as cod and chips could be under threat and disappear from British menus due to climate change, a study has warned.

Researchers analysed its effects on stocks for south-west England’s fisheries and said families may have to change their diets to save the threatened species.

The Celtic Sea, English Channel and southern North Sea have experienced significant warming over the past 40 years, and further increases in sea temperatures are expected.

Computer projections up to the year 2090 suggest increases in abundance of warm-adapted species such as red mullet, Dover sole, John Dory and lemon sole, and decreases in cold species such as cod, monkfish and megrim.

The study involved the Universities of Exeter and Bristol, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), and the Met Office.

They said declining species may need help and there will be implications for the wider ecosystem.

Lead author Dr Katherine Maltby, who undertook the research while at Cefas, said: “Our results show that climate change will continue to affect fish stocks within this sea region into the future, presenting both potential risks but some opportunities that fishers will likely have to adapt to.

“Consumers can help fishers take advantage of these fishing opportunities by seeking out other fish species to eat and enjoy.”

Co-author Louise Rutterford, from University of Exeter, said: “We know from working with fishers that warmer water species are appearing in catches more.

“Bringing together their ‘on-the-ground’ experiences with studies like ours will help inform future management decisions that enable sustainable exploitation while supporting fishers’ adaptation.”

Warmer sea temperatures are threatening the abundance of cod, a study is warning (Danny Lawson/PA)
Warmer sea temperatures are threatening the abundance of cod, a study is warning (Danny Lawson/PA)

Philip Evans, from campaign group Greenpeace UK, said: “Our oceans are changing at an unprecedented rate, and we are already seeing the tangible impacts of warmer oceans here in the UK.

“While our oceans adapt to these changes, we must reduce the pressures being placed on them and the life that calls them home, which includes curtailing rampant industrial fishing activity, like that of supertrawlers.

“We need a coherent network of ocean sanctuaries, protecting at least 30% of our oceans, to give marine life space to adapt and thrive, and to safeguard vital blue carbon stores.

“We must also urgently reduce our emissions and reliance on fossil fuels to help us tackle the climate emergency at source.”

– The paper, Projected Impacts Of Warming Seas On Commercially Fished Species At A Biogeographic Boundary Of The European Continental Shelf, is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

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