It is the meal most associated with the UK, along with slurping tea and moaning about the weather. But the great British fish supper could be on the way out, replaced by more continental variations such as squid and chips, as seas continue to warm, the British Ecological Society will be told this week.
Britons may have to adopt a more continental diet when it comes to fish, as climate change sees cold-water fish such as cod gradually replaced by squid and other warm-water species, according to research led by Dr John Pinnegar of Cefas, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
“Our models for 2025 and beyond suggest that seawater temperature may continue to rise in the future,” said Pinnegar. “As a result, UK waters will become more hospitable for some species and less suitable for others, with the overall result that most commercial species will move northwards.”
Squid numbers have increased dramatically over the past 35 years in the North Sea, according to Cefas, which has monitored North Sea fish populations for the past 114 years. It said squid was found at 60% of its 76 survey stations in 2016, compared with just 20% in 1984.
The organisation analyses records of where fish are caught and water temperature, to monitor the impact of climate change and fishing intensity to long-term changes in abundance.
Cod numbers have been slow to recover after overfishing drastically reduced their numbers, according to Cefas. While there was 1.3m tonnes of cod in the North Sea in 1971, numbers fell to 124,000 tonnes in 2004. Following the imposition of fish stock quotas, that increased to 295,000 tonnes in 2016, but scientists believe cod reproduction has been hampered by warming waters.