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July 15, 2010 – Original Source: Telegraph, UK

The UK’s seas are experiencing warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in fish stocks and declines in breeding seabirds as a result of climate change, a report showed today.

According to the annual report for the Government by almost 100 scientists from 40 leading UK organisations, some fish moved northwards by between 50km to 400km (30-250 miles) over the past 30 years, with coldwater species such as monkfish moving furthest.

The study said global warming contributed to a 9% decline in the number of seabirds breeding in the UK between 2000 and 2008 and a drop in breeding success.

UK sea levels rose in line with global rises of an average 1.8mm a year since 1955.

The rate of increase escalated in recent years, with sea levels rising by 3mm a year on average since 1992, the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership said.

The oceans are becoming more acidic, at a rate faster than anything experienced in the past 55 million years, with concerns for ecosystems and species that could be affected by the changes.

And sea temperatures are generally rising, although there are fluctuations between years and UK coastal sea surface temperatures were lower in 2008 than the 2003 to 2007 average.

The report said warmer temperatures in the seas had an impact on coldwater species such as cod, threatening the survival of larvae and the growth of the fish, while salmon and eels were shown to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The shifting distribution of fish, partly as a result of climate change, was having an impact on the effectiveness of closing fishery areas to manage stocks sustainably.

But elsewhere there were boosts for fisheries, with seabass off the coast of the South West and South Wales quadrupling since 1985 and squid becoming more abundant in the northern North Sea.

The report card, which also looked at regional impacts of climate change on the seas, warned there was erosion of saltmarshes, which provide important habitat for species and can help limit flooding, on the coasts of the English Channel.

It also said red seaweed, introduced from Asia, was now present in Kent, Devon and Cornwall, while the increased temperatures in the seas were leading to increased disease outbreaks in pink sea fan.

In Scotland, birds including Arctic skuas, black-legged kittiwakes and shags have declined due to a drop in food availability.

The report outlines potential impacts of climate change on the UK’s seas, including rises in sea levels which could top half a metre by the end of the century.

Sea levels could increase by between 21cm and 68cm in Cardiff and by 7cm to 55cm in Belfast, while increased algal blooms could lead to fish-kills.

Changes in winter wave heights in the Irish Sea and northern Channel could hit built structures, while storm surges could further erode saltmarshes in the eastern English Channel.

Marine environment minister Richard Benyon said: ”For hundreds of years our seas have supported our fishing industry that provides us with food and coastal communities a way of life, as well as the vital marine ecosystem that is home to half the world species and habitats.

”But the seas and oceans are changing and we are only just starting to understand what this means.

”Scientific studies through partnerships such as this provide the research and knowledge that we need to take to understand how climate change is affecting the world’s waters and what action we need to take.”

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