Climate change risks: Marine and Fisheries report highlights issues
26 January 2012
The Government published the UK
Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) today, the first
assessment of its kind for the UK and the first in a five-year
The CCRA has reviewed the evidence for over 700 potential
impacts of climate change in a UK context. Detailed analysis was
undertaken for over 100 of these impacts across 11 key sectors, on
the basis of their likelihood, the scale of their potential
consequences and the urgency with which action may be needed to
Scientists from Cefas' Marine Climate Change
Centre (the MC3) were lead authors for the Marine
and Fisheries sector report.
Their detailed analysis has highlighted not only the risks but
in some cases potential gains that could result from changing
climatic conditions. For instance:
Biodiversity and ecosystems
- There may be serious consequences for the way marine ecosystems
function. Rates of "carbon cycling" could divert resources away
from seabed species therefore disrupting food webs and,
- A number of species, including certain seabirds and invasive non-native
plants and animals, may establish themselves in the UK for the
first time while others may disappear.
- Reductions in polar sea ice may affect the habitats for animals
and indigenous people that rely on the frozen environment to
- Shrinking sea ice opens up two potentially key shipping routes
in the summer: the North West Passage and the North East Passage to
the Pacific and Asia. These short-cuts will offer quicker journeys,
lower fuel costs and the avoidance of Suez and Panama Canal
- If winter weather becomes rougher around the UK this may cause
more frequent disruption to ferry services off of Scotland and
across the Irish Sea. Temporary port closures, damage to cargo and
increased costs of maintaining navigation channels are other
- A range of species and ecosystems are vulnerable to ocean
acidification, when the seas absorb carbon dioxide
(CO2). There might be serious economic implications for
commercial shellfish species in particular.
- Rising sea temperatures
may lead to the continuing northwards shift in the distribution
patterns of some species of fish and shellfish. This might result
in some species becoming more abundant in UK waters, offering new
- Climate change may have a negative
impact on some species (e.g. cod and haddock) but a positive
effect on others (e.g. plaice and sole).
Health and disease
- Contaminated shellfish have been implicated in some outbreaks of
the "winter vomiting " norovirus amongst humans. Increased
frequency of intense rainfall events caused by climate change may
increase sewer-spill frequency and heighten such risks.
- Rising sea temperatures have been associated with increases in
illness associated with blooms of naturally occuring but harmful
Producing the CCRA has involved a high degree of consultation
and review. The independent analysis was funded by UK Government
and Devolved Governments and has been delivered through a
consortium of organisations led by HR Wallingford.The
outputs have been extensively peer-reviewed by scientific and
economics experts, an independent international peer-review panel,
and have also been scrutinised by the Adaptation Sub-Committee of
the Committee on Climate Change.
The outputs provide an evidence base that can be used by central
Government and Devolved Administrations in identifying priorities
for action and appropriate adaptation measures that will be
required to minimise risks to our economy, environment and society.
A consultation process for the National Adaptation
Programme has also been launched today.