Cod, haddock and herring predicted to leave warming Scottish waters | POGO

Cod, haddock and herring predicted to leave warming Scottish waters

Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) News release, October 31, 2017


Cod, herring and haddock may vanish from Scotland’s west coast waters by the turn of the century because of global warming.


Researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), near Oban, have predicted that by 2100 commercially important species could migrate out from this ecosystem, most likely to colder waters further north, in response to rising sea temperatures.


The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, show that cod and herring off Scotland’s west coast are already nearing the edge of their temperature tolerance range.


Over the forthcoming decades these species will gradually be replaced by more abundant communities of saithe, hake and whiting. From 1985 to 2013, the population of saithe and hake off the Scottish west coast increased four-fold.


The paper’s lead author Dr Natalia Serpetti, a marine ecologist at SAMS, said: “These results highlight the importance of considering environmental change, as well as fishing quotas, to achieve sustainable fisheries management at an ecosystem level.


“We initially tested the impact of current advised fishing quotas, along with predator/prey interactions, within the ecosystem. Cod, whiting and herring stocks, that historically showed declining trends due to high fisheries exploitation and predation, recovered under a sustainable fishery management.


“However, we 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.


“Even under the best case climate change scenario, cod and herring stocks were predicted to collapse off Scotland’s west coast.”


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).





 Herring could be on the move from Scottish waters

 An image of a food web off the west coast of Scotland ecosystem

 Marine ecologist Dr Natalia Serpetti


Contact details

Euan Paterson
Media and Communications Officer
Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS)
T: 01631 559 342

M: 07827963984



Notes to editors:


  • The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), based at Dunstaffnage, near Oban, is Scotland’s largest and oldest independent marine science organisation, dedicated to delivering marine science for a healthy and sustainable marine environment through research, education and engagement with society. It is a charitable organisation (009206) and an academic partner within the University of the Highlands and Islands.
  • Dr Serpetti’s research updated an existing Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) ecosystem model of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) area VIa.
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