Herring could abandon Scotland's waters by 2100 in search of colder zones. (Photo: SAMS)
Cod, haddock and herring forecast to vanish from Scottish waters
Wednesday, November 01, 2017, 00:10 (GMT + 9)
Researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) have predicted that by 2100 commercially important species, like cod, herring and haddock, could migrate out from Scotland’s west coast waters because of global warming.
The findings show that these species are already nearing the edge of their temperature tolerance range and that over the forthcoming decades they will gradually be replaced by more abundant communities of saithe, hake and whiting.
“These results highlight the importance of considering environmental change, as well as fishing quotas, to achieve sustainable fisheries management at an ecosystem level,” pointed out the paper’s lead author Dr Natalia Serpetti, a marine ecologist at SAMS.
Serpetti explained that they tested the impact of current advised fishing quotas, along with predator/prey interactions, within the ecosystem. In this way, they determined that cod, whiting and herring stocks, that historically showed declining trends due to high fisheries exploitation and predation, recovered under a sustainable fishery management.
However, these scientists pointed out they subsequently tested the impact of rising temperature under Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate change scenarios, while keeping fishing rates consistent with current advised maximum sustainable yields, and found that there would be a collapse of cold water species stocks.
“Our results showed that warmer climate could jeopardise sustainable fishery management: rising temperature showed strong negative impact on cold water species such as grey seals, cod, haddock and herring, which all declined by 2100 under the worst case climate warming scenario,” stressed Serpetti.
Dr Serpetti’s research updated an existing marine model of the west coast of Scotland ecosystem, situated in the north-east Atlantic from the coastline to the edge of the continental shelf.
Her model looked at how rising temperatures would affect 41 groups of species, from top predators such as whales and seals to many fish species and animals such as crabs and snails living on the sea floor.
The research is part of the Marine Ecosystem Research Programme (MERP), funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The project findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.