Climate change a threat to our fish and seas

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By a Newsnet reporter

Warming sea temperatures, caused by climate change, are having a clear effect on fish stocks a new report, launched yesterday at the World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh, claims.

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) report follows extensive research into the effects of climate change on fish, fisheries and aquaculture.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead said:

“Climate change is affecting us all and understanding the impact on the marine environment is hugely important.  Fisheries and aquaculture are vital to our economy – worth over 1 billion – and clear science is critical to secure the future of our valuable food industries.

“I welcome the collaborative work of the MCCIP – the report card provides significant and robust scientific data which will help inform future policies to tackle climate change.”

Key findings from the report show that warming sea temperatures affect the depth, distribution, migration and spawning behaviours of fish populations in the wild.

Within the next 20 years the MCCIP predict that the traditional cod and haddock fishing grounds off north-east Scotland will shrink and move to cooler waters further north.  As water temperatures increase, species such as red mullet and plaice are predicted to become more accessible to the Scottish fishing fleet.

The report illustrates that adaptation in the industry is already apparent with fishermen in the traditional cod and haddock areas now increasingly trawling for species such as squid.

In the past the blame for the decline in stocks of haddock and cod has been levelled at over-fishing, and this is still cited by MCCIP as an important causative factor, however the impacts of climate change are now being more fully recognised.

The fish farming industry is also predicted to be affected by climate change, with increasing disease and parasite pressure being a possibility.  However, MCCIP Scientists believe that there may be scope for fish farmers to adapt their practices in order to compensate for negative effects, with new farmed species potentially becoming viable.

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) is a partnership between scientists, government and its agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry.

The principal aim of MCCIP is to provide a co-ordinating framework for the UK, so as to be able to transfer high quality evidence on marine climate change impacts, and guidance on adaptation and related advice, to policy advisors and decision-makers.