Nation's favourite cod and chips at climate change risk © Getty Images

National favourite, cod and chips, at climate change risk

Published: 11th August, 2020 at 09:48
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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, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, 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.

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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 the 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.”

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 per cent 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.”

Reader Q&A: How do fish end up in isolated bodies of water like lakes?

Asked by: Amy-Grace Enzer

Leaving aside the obvious answer that humans often deliberately introduce fish to lakes and ponds, we can draw a comparison with the population of isolated islands. Just as an island may once have been connected by a land bridge, so lakes may originally have been part of river systems that dried up. Or a river may have flooded long ago and briefly flowed into low-lying land to create a populated lake.

Some lake residents are even descended from ancestors that crossed from one lake to another. While most fish can’t travel very far over the land, their eggs will survive for several hours out of water. When waterbirds come to lakes to feed, fish eggs might get stuck to their feathers, hitching a ride to a new home.

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Alexander McNamaraOnline Editor, BBC Science Focus

Alexander is the former Online Editor at BBC Science Focus.


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