What is already happening?
  • Climate-driven declines in primary production and copepods in the North Sea have led to declines in fish stock recruitment for some commercial species, including cod, herring, whiting and sprat. 
  • A global analysis of fisheries productivity highlighted that the North Sea and Celtic–Biscay Shelf are among the most negatively impacted regions as a result of ocean warming and historical overexploitation. 
  • Increasing numbers of Atlantic bluefin tuna have been reported in UK waters by commercial and recreational fishers, which may be partly related to warming temperatures. At present, there is no quota for this species for UK vessels. 

High evidence, medium agreement

There is still considerable uncertainty about ‘attribution’, given some of the observed changes in distribution or productivity of fish stocks are partly driven by climate change, and partly by other factors, such as changes in fishing pressure or habitat modification. Opinions on the impacts of OA range vary widely, despite lots of new evidence.

What could happen in the future?
  • Projected declines in shellfish production resulting from ocean acidification may result in significant economic losses within UK fisheries. 
  • By 2050, under a high-emissions scenario, the total maximum fisheries catch potential is projected to decrease within the UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), resulting in a 10% decrease in net present value. 
  • Populations of incoming warm-water species (e.g. Northern hake) with limited quota allocation could act to ‘choke’ existing mixed fisheries, such that the whole fishery must cease operation. 

Medium evidence, low confidence

Whilst there has been a lot of recent modelling work on species change, and effects on fleets and local economies, they have often produced different results based on inputs and assumptions used (e.g. on future food web changes). Using ensembles of different models may help provide more robust outputs

Key Challenges and Emerging Issues
  • Understanding potential barriers to sector and fleet adaptation to climate change (e.g., market failures, information, and policy barriers, including quotas/discards).
  • Evaluating climate change impacts on the benefits derived from recreational fishing (e.g., to coastal economies and wellbeing of participants). 
  • Applying more climate change research to species of conservation importance (e.g., flapper skate, basking shark) to inform conservation measures.