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WFC: Climate Change is Affecting Fish Stocks

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SCOTLAND, UK - The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) launched its latest Report Card yesterday at the World Fisheries Congress in Edinburgh, looking at the impact of climate change on the marine environment.

The MCCIP 2012 report card focuses on how climate change is affecting the fish and shellfish we find in our seas, providing both opportunities and threats, and what the social and economic consequences could be.

Key findings from the report published include:

  • There are clear changes in the depth, distribution, migration and spawning behaviours of fish many of which can be related to warming sea temperatures.
  • Cultivated fish and shellfish are both susceptible to climate change, although fish farming technologies offer good potential for adaptation.
  • Controlled or closed fishing areas (a type of protected area) that can be adapted in response to climate change have the potential to help protect commercial and vulnerable fish stocks. Recreational sea fishing is an important socio-economic activity that could be positively affected by climate change, due to the increasing abundance of species that are of interest to anglers.
  • Shifting distributions of fish have led to a series of international disagreements and will continue to have implications for fisheries management across international boundaries

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. That is why 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.

UK Minister for the Marine Environment, Richard Benyon, said: I would like to thank the scientists who have contributed towards this valuable report and believe we have come a long way in a short time in understanding the impacts of climate change on the marine environment.

The truth is that climate change is having a big impact on distribution of fish stocks and this is going to present some significant challenges for policy-makers, fisheries managers and for fishing industry itself.

The Government will develop a National Adaptation Plan in response to the Climate Change Risk Assessment in which issues affecting the marine environment will be addressed.

Other findings in the MCCIP report include:

  • Some species are key to the integrity of marine food chains. If these are particularly affected by climate change then extensive restructuring of food chains will follow. Declines in the abundance of sandeels in the North Sea may be a particular case in point.
  • Increasing demand for fish versus decreasing availability may be exacerbated by climate change.
  • For cod, an important economic species in the UK, short-term stock recovery will depend primarily on reducing fishing mortality.

However in the longer term, climate change might be expected to have an increasingly important effect on stocks.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.