Some like it hot -- European fish stocks changing with warming seas

Sep 15, 2011

The first "big picture" study of the effects of rapidly rising temperatures in the northeast Atlantic Ocean shows that a major shift in fish stocks is already well underway. But it isn't all bad news. The research, published today (15th Sept.) in Current Biology, shows that some fishes' losses are other fishes' gain.

The study led by Dr Steve Simpson of the University of Bristol in collaboration with researchers from eight other institutions, is the first to combine a suite of European datasets, which included more than 100 million fish, to explore how warming is affecting the commercially important European fishery. The researchers analysed 28 years of fisheries agency data from 11 independent surveys covering more than a million square kilometres of the European .

The northeast Atlantic has been described as the "cauldron of ", with warming occurring at a rate four times the global average over the past 30 years. Dr Simpson, a researcher in the University's School of , explained: "While a 1.3° Celsius change in mean annual temperature in the North Sea over the past three decades may sound trivial, temperature has a strong influence on egg maturation rates, growth and survival of fish larvae, and impacts on the planktonic communities that underpin the food webs that sustain commercial fisheries.

"We see many more southerly warm-water species faring well on the European shelf than northerly cold-adapted species. This means more small-bodied, faster growing species with shorter generation times, and potentially more diversity."

Indeed, the data show that fish in European waters have undergone profound community-level changes that are related to dramatic warming trends for the region. The vast majority – a whopping 72 percent – of common have already shown a change in abundance that relates to the rising sea temperatures.

Of those, three out of every four fish species have grown in numbers with warming. Catches of cold-loving species, including haddock and cod, have dropped by half in the past three decades, whereas landings of warm-loving species, including hake and dab, have more than doubled.

The results show that studies focused only on changes to where particular species are found – species ranges – will miss the far more ecologically and economically relevant effects of warming. They also suggest there will be an unavoidable change in what's for dinner.

Simpson added: "We may see a further decline in cold-adapted species, many of which were the staple for our grandparents. The flip side is a likely increase in that for the UK may seem relatively exotic now, such as red mullet and John Dory. Over time, with effective management and an appropriate response in consumer demand, European seas have the potential to yield productive and sustainable fisheries into the future."

Explore further: Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

47 minutes ago

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

10 hours ago

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

Offspring benefit from mum sending the right message

18 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers have uncovered a previously unforeseen interaction between the sexes which reveals that offspring survival is affected by chemical signals emitted from the females' eggs.

User comments : 0

More news stories

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...