Tuesday, 4 December 2018

A New Climate for Fishing

Public event shines a light on what climate change could mean for Scottish fisheries.

Over 100 guests gathered at a public event on Wednesday 28th November to find out more about what climate change could mean for Scottish fisheries. Part of an international five-day workshop on climate change hosted by the University of Aberdeen, and funded by Fisheries Innovation Scotland (FIS), the public event brought together students, scientists, fishing industry and government representatives, alongside interested locals, to offer an open forum for questions and discussion. The hot topic: will changes in ocean temperatures drive a sea-change in marine fisheries? And what will it mean for the business and livelihoods that depend on them?

An expert panel featured world-renowned climate change scientists including Gretta Pecl from Tasmania University, fisheries economist Alan Haynie from Alaska Fisheries Science Centre and Skipper of the pelagic fishing vessel Resolute, George R. West. Commenting on the range of expertise in the room, Fisheries Innovation Scotland Executive Director, Kara Brydson, said: “FIS is a unique charity which supports collaboration and knowledge exchange between fishers, scientists, government, and the seafood supply chain. We commission research and events that not only raise awareness of issues that could impact on profitable and sustainable fisheries but also to find innovative ways to combat these problems, thanks to partnerships between scientists and the Scottish fishing industry.”

Amongst the key messages from the day’s presentations was the need for an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to respond quickly to the ‘massive’ changes climate change will bring to fisheries. John Pinnegar, Marine Climate Change Centre, highlighted how valuable species are moving north, looking for cooler waters. Pinnegar predicted Scottish fishing staples like cod and herring would be ‘losers’ under climate change, struggling with shifts in sea conditions. Species that thrive in warmer waters, including squid, sprat and sea bass, are predicted to benefit.

A presentation from the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association by scientist Steven Mackinson shone a light on the role of the fishing industry as data-gatherers. A FIS-funded initiative is supporting efforts to improve the stock assessment for herring through genetic sampling on board pelagic vessels. The audience heard how a clear picture of stock status now, and in the future, will help anticipate and adapt to the challenges of a changing climate.

Pelagic Skipper, George R. West, shared a fishermen’s perspective by outlining changes he has seen over four decades at sea, including the ‘unexpected’ southward shift of mackerel. He detailed how the pelagic industry is already doing a lot to protect the fishery from a rising climate, with investment in more fuel efficient vessels that can travel further following shifting stocks and stronger collaborations with climate change scientists.

After the event, participants were encouraged to join a reception where they could ask questions about climate change and fish to visiting scientists and fishing industry representatives. An attendee from Marine Scotland was glad to see a mixture of industry representatives, economists and scientists were given an opportunity to speak at a scientific event: “This event felt really inclusive, which makes it much more worthwhile.”

“The combination of speakers benefits our interpretation of past climate changes and also allows us to make more robust predictions about future impacts,” said event lead Dr Tara Marshall, Senior Lecturer in Fisheries Science at Aberdeen University. “The compelling presentations given at the public event will be made available on the FIS website along with ideas for how the research community and industry in Scotland can continue to work together to investigate and prepare for climate change.”