Cod lovers might have to change their preferences soon. According to new research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, global warming may cause a decline in cod populations. Cod thrive in cool water, and global warming pushes the species to the brink of extinction. A group of scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Exter, in collaboration with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (Cefas) conducted this research. The researchers used computer models to predict how fish populations may change by 2090.
Research now indicates that cod may need to be replaced by species more resistant to climate change. Cod serves as a favorite for fish and chips, but as cod populations decline, new species may need to step up. Species such as the red mullet, John Dory, and lemon sole rank as possible candidates to replace cod on menus. These species thrive in warm water and are starting to appear more frequently in catches, in contrast to decreasing numbers of cod.
“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,” Dr. Katherine Maltby, marine climate change scientist at Cefas and the study’s lead author, said.
Earlier research from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory warned that larger North Sea fish populations may fall by up to 60%. This decline comes alongside reports of the North Sea heating at a rate double that of average world oceans. Last year, the North Sea hit a new record of heating by 1.67 degrees Celsius over the past 45 years.
Reducing global warming’s impacts on the fish in these waters will require new fish management techniques. As Louise Rutterford, co-author of the Cefas study and a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, explained, “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.”
Image via Per Harald Olsen