The Scotsman

Fish­er­men turned sci­en­tists head­ing sea change in data on cli­mate ef­fects

Dr Steven Mack­in­son re­ports on how Scot­tish ves­sels are do­ing their bit to keep fish­eries sus­tain­able

- Dr Steven Mack­in­son, chief sci­en­tific of­fi­cer, Scot­tish Pelagic Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion. Animals · Climate Change · Zoology · Science · Ecology · Wildlife · Biology · Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change · Aberdeenshire · University of Aberdeen · Scotland · United Kingdom · United States of America · Australia · Alaska · Tasmania · University of the Highlands and Islands · Marine Scotland · Pandora

Cli­mate change and how it af­fects our en­vi­ron­ment is one of the most talked about top­ics of our times, with it likely to have a whole range of sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts on our ev­ery­day lives both now and into the fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est spe­cial re­port from the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change, we are al­ready see­ing the con­se­quences of one de­grees cel­sius global warm­ing caused by hu­man ac­tiv­ity, such as loss of sea ice and de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion. The trend is pre­dicted to con­tinue, with fu­ture warm­ing es­ti­mated to reach 1.5C be­tween 2030 and 2052.

Such tem­per­a­ture rises may not seem like much, but for the sen­si­tive marine en­vi­ron­ment it can be the cat­a­lyst for sig­nif­i­cant change in the dis­tri­bu­tion and abun­dance of fish and other marine life. Not only do such changes have the po­ten­tial to harm the marine ecosys­tem, it also im­pacts upon food se­cu­rity, when seafood is the pri­mary source of an­i­mal pro­tein for an es­ti­mated one bil­lion peo­ple.

I re­cently at­tended, and pre­sented at, a sci­en­tific lec­ture and dis­cus­sion event in Aberdeen on cli­mate change and the im­pacts on fish dis­tri­bu­tion and pro­duc­tion, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on Scot­tish fish­eries.

Hosted and or­gan­ised by the Univer­sity of Aberdeen as part of a week-long in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific work­shop, and funded by Fish­eries In­no­va­tion Scot­land, ex­perts from the UK, USA and Aus­tralia gave their own per­spec­tives of the re­search they are in­volved in and how it af­fects marine life.

The con­clu­sions were com­pelling – whether it be Alaska, Tas­ma­nia or the UK, per­cep­ti­ble change is hap­pen­ing in our marine en­vi­ron­ment. In UK wa­ters, this is re­sult­ing in cod mov­ing north­wards, while warmer wa­ter fish such as red mul­let are com­ing in from the south. But the pre­sen­ta­tion and work­shop also high­lighted the sci­en­tific chal­lenges of dis­en­tan­gling cli­mate ef­fects from other causes, and im­por­tantly, how sci­ence and man­age­ment might re­spond.

The pre­sen­ta­tions high­lighted the im­por­tance of sound data to mon­i­tor these changes, which, in turn, can hope­fully lead to man­age­ment mea­sures that mit­i­gate their im­pacts.

This is one area where Scot­land’s mack­erel and her­ring (pelagic) fish­er­men are be­gin­ning to play a lead role, with their ves­sels used as re­search plat­forms. Two years ago, I was ap­pointed by the Scot­tish Pelagic Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion as its chief sci­en­tific of­fi­cer to co-or­di­nate re­search and data col­lec­tion us­ing fish­ing ves­sels, bring­ing sci­ence to in­dus­try and in­dus­try to sci­ence.

For the Scot­tish pelagic sec­tor there is a lot at stake, given that mack­erel and her­ring have an es­tab­lished global trade that helps en­sure food se­cu­rity. Scot­tish fish­er­men have in­vested heav­ily in modern ves­sels and the lat­est equip­ment, to en­sure a high qual­ity prod­uct that can be de­liv­ered to mar­ket in the short­est pos­si­ble time.

Such in­vest­ment has re­sulted in Scot­tish mack­erel and her­ring de­liv­er­ing a much lower car­bon foot­print than other forms of pro­tein pro­duc­tion such as beef, lamb, pork and chicken.

But as well as dis­tri­bu­tion and abun­dance, cli­mate change can have other im­pact son marine life. Meta­bolic the­ory pre­dicts that changes in the ‘liv­ing costs’ of fish can af­fect growth, with fish be­com­ing smaller on av­er­age over time as wa­ters warm. For the fish­ing sec­tor, fish size and sup­ply hit prices, and high prices af­fect profit and in­vest­ment, as well as the abil­ity to com­pete with other fish­ing in­ter­ests.

There is the ecosys­tem im­pact too – both mack­erel and her­ring are food for other marine crea­tures and are preda­tors in their own right. Changes in their abun­dance or dis­tri­bu­tion re­lated to warmer seas can po­ten­tially have sig­nif­i­cant knock-on ef­fects.

All these are com­pelling rea­sons why the Scot­tish pelagic in­dus­try is so keen to be­come in­volved in sci­en­tific re­search to help us bet­ter un­der­stand such changes. En­gag­ing and in­vest­ing in sci­ence by be­com­ing first-hand providers of sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion demon­strates a com­mit­ment by our fish­er­men to sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble fish­ing.

From 2018 on­wards, the Scot­tish Pelagic Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, NAFC Marine Cen­tre (which is part of the Univer­sity of the High­lands and Is­lands) and Marine Scot­land Sci­ence are work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with the pelagic fish­er­men to de­sign and test a sci­en­tific self-sam­pling scheme.

Dur­ing the test­ing phase, a se­lec­tion of ves­sels will col­lect sam­ples of fish length and weight for ev­ery haul dur­ing the fish­ing sea­sons for mack­erel, her­ring and blue whit­ing. The time and lo­ca­tion of catches, and en­vi­ron­men­tal data such as wa­ter depth and tem­per­a­ture will also be recorded. Analy­ses from the pi­lot study will be pub­lished and used

to fi­nalise the de­sign of a self-sam­pling pro­gramme to be im­ple­mented across the Scot­tish pelagic fleet. A great start has been made with data from the 2018 her­ring and mack­erel fish­ing sea­sons al­ready be­ing pro­cessed. This self-sam­pling work con­trib­utes to a much larger sci­en­tific project called PAN­DORA (www. pan­dora-fish­eries-project.eu), which aims to im­prove the qual­ity of fish stock as­sess­ments by in­clud­ing new bi­o­log­i­cal in­for­ma­tion.

Com­mit­ted to en­gag­ing in this kind of re­search, it is the vi­sion of the Scot­tish Pelagic Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion to be re­spected providers of sci­en­tif­i­cally cred­i­ble data that can be used to as­sess fish stocks, mon­i­tor changes in the ecosys­tem and sup­port man­age­ment de­ci­sions.

We do, af­ter all, have a spe­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain fish­eries for the health of our so­ci­ety – both in terms of food se­cu­rity and for the over­all ben­e­fit of the marine en­vi­ron­ment.

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 ??  ?? 0 Se­lected ves­sels in the Scot­tish pelagic fleet are record­ing the time and lo­ca­tion of catches, fish length and weight, and en­vi­ron­men­tal data such as wa­ter depth and tem­per­a­ture when­ever they haul in
0 Se­lected ves­sels in the Scot­tish pelagic fleet are record­ing the time and lo­ca­tion of catches, fish length and weight, and en­vi­ron­men­tal data such as wa­ter depth and tem­per­a­ture when­ever they haul in
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