A study suggests that cod and haddock could soon be replaced by warm water fish. Words Ginny Weeks.

Researchers from Exeter and Bristol University have warned that popular North Sea fish such as haddock, plaice, cod and lemon sole will not be on our menus for much longer.

Fish stocks are limited by water temperature and in the last 40 years the North Sea has warmed four times faster than the global average. Further warming is predicted and so a study was undertaken to see how this will impact on commercial species.

The team of researchers combined long term fisheries datasets and climate model projections to predict the abundance and distribution of the UK's favourite fish over the next 50 years.

The results showed that as the North Sea warms, species will reduce in relative abundance as they have limited access to more suitable habitats. The nation's current favourite haddock may be replaced by red mullet and John Dory as seas warm by up to 1.8 degrees.

Louise Rutterford, postgraduate researcher in Biosciences at the University of Exeter, said: “Our study suggests that we will see proportionally less of some of the species we eat most of as they struggle to cope with warming conditions in the North Sea. We provide new insight into how important local depths and associated habitats are to these commercial species. It’s something that is not always captured in existing models that predict future fish distributions.

Dr Steve Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology & Global Change at the University of Exeter, said the findings are important for both consumers and the fishing industry: "We will see a real changing of the guard in the next few decades. Our models predict cold water species will be squeezed out, with warmer water fish likely to take their place. For sustainable UK fisheries, we need to move on from haddock & chips and look to southern Europe for our gastronomic inspiration.”
To read the full report, click here.

Climate change facts

Fish distributions are limited by water temperature and some species can only thrive in certain habitats and depths

In the last 40 years the North Sea has warmed four times faster than the global average and further warming is predicted over the coming century

Source: Nature Climate Change Journal