back to article Climate change threatens to SHRINK FISH AND CHIP SUPPERS

Climate change could threaten the quintessential British meal, the venerable fish and chips, which will only be available in small portions or not at all if boffins are correct. The scientists have warned that the body weight of fish, including North Sea haddock and cod, will drop if oceans warm up. The theory goes that warmer …

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  1. Anomalous Cowshed

    There is of course no connection to the depletion of the fish stocks due to over-fishing, there's no need to control for that particular factor.

    1. Psyx
      Facepalm

      Like there's going to be many Cod left in fifty years time, anyway!

      I think getting smaller due to environmental problems is the least of the worries for the author's cod and chips!

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Stop

        So the rumours say. On the other hand:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-18646660

        and debunking some recent newspaper stories:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19755695

        So as ever it depends who you ask but the extinction of Cod appears to have been exaggerated..at least recently.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Darwin

      Cod are already shrinking due to natural selection.

      The nets used to trawl for cod have to have holes large enough to let the young cod escape. As a result, if you are an older smaller cod you are more likely to survive and pass your genes on. Hence you get shrinking fish.

      There is a whole host of research out their about fish, including changes is size, all based upon actual physical evidence and not some computer model being tweaked by a researcher, who has probably never even handled a fish let alone measured it.

      1. Don Jefe
        Meh

        Re: Darwin

        The idea behind the larger holes in the nets is to let juvenille fish through. The fact smaller (i.e. Young) fish get through is because they are going to continue to grow & when they are mature they will reproduce. If you catch them too young they never get the chance.

        Your argument is like saying now that I'm 35 and even though I'm 6'5" 220lbs that if I had bred when I was only 15 and much smaller it would have an impact on the size of my progeny. That's not the way genetics works.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Darwin @Don Jefe

          The following paper is one of a multitude on similar themes. It uses real world data not a computer model.

          PNAS Jan 13th 2009 "Human predators outpace other agents of trait change in the wild" Chris T Darimont et al

          Selected parts of the abstract:

          "... humans now typically exploit high proportions of prey populations and target large, reproductive-aged adults. Consequently, organisms subject to consistent and strong ‘harvest selection’ by fishers, hunters, and plant harvesters may be expected to show particularly rapid and dramatic changes in phenotype."

          "These changes, which include average declines of almost 20% in size-related traits and shifts in life history traits of nearly 25%, are most rapid in commercially exploited systems...."

          One the organisms they look at is Atlantic cod.

          As for your ridiculous argument, a child at age 2 is approximately half its adult height* so if all children over 3 foot tall at age 2 were "harvested" then adults over 6 foot tall would become rare. Hence tall people would not be able to pass on their tall genes because they were expunged from the gene pool at age 2. With fish, its the nets. The longer a fish can pass through the nets the more likely it is to pass on its genes which makes being big a genetic dis-advantage.

          * Obviously this is not true for all children/adults. Some will be smaller than 3ft and grow to be taller than 6ft and vice-versa but it is true enough for a reasonable estimate of a child's adult height.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Darwin

          "Your argument is like saying now that I'm 35 and even though I'm 6'5" 220lbs that if I had bred when I was only 15 and much smaller it would have an impact on the size of my progeny. That's not the way genetics works."

          How about:

          You bred at 15, 16, 17 before being caught in the net due to your increasing size

          Whereas your smaller brother who doesn't have the "tall" gene:

          Breeds at 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 before being caught in the net due to his increasing size.

          Your smaller brother had 7 years to breed compared to your 3 so had lots more opportunity to pass on his "small" genes. Since being smaller has a survival advantage then the species will tend to reduce in size.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Darwin

        Spot on! I have supplied equipment to a local University project that is studying this.

        There is good evidence that the average fish size is getting smaller due to the fact that only the larger fish are removed from the population ie caught. If more larger fish are left in the population then these will breed and the average size increases again.

        The problem is that, like in humans, the larger fish are not necessarily the older fish - they may be younger fish that are going to be larger fish when more mature. These are the fish you need to breed larger fish but they can get caught too early. DNA analysis is confirming this.

  2. Dr Stephen Jones
    Unhappy

    "According to computer models...

    ... scientists were surprised"

    This must be pre-printed on every climate-related press release.

    Now let's look at the modelers assumptions.

    "Assuming that other resources for growth are constant"

    Yeah, OK. But we know there more CO2 means more plant food for fish, we know that life thrives in warmer temperatures, we know ecosystems are stimulated by CO2, we know warmer climate causes greater biodiversity.

    The model, and the report, are garbage. Where's Lewis when you need him?

    1. Pete Smith 2

      Re: "According to computer models...

      Back in the land of measurements, not models...

      http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/fish511/Readings/temp%20Size%20growth%20atl%20salmon.pdf

      "In conclusion, the present study shows ontogenetic variation in optimum temperature for growth in juvenile Atlantic salmon smolts, with increased temperature optimum for growth and decreased temperature for feed conversion efficiency as the fish grow bigger."

      (The water has to get *much* hotter before a decrease in the growth of the fish is seen)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "According to computer models...

      Salmon are mainly carnivorous in the sea, so unlikely to benefit directly, if at all, from more algae.

      The caricaturisation of CO2 as plant food is grossly simplistic, particularly in an marine ecosystem.

      Even if the CO2 is taken up by algae in sufficient quantities to not change the ph of the water, you'd better hope it's the right algae which is growing for the bottom of the food chain to feed on. Many fish and invertebrates can only feed on specific algae and will simply die out if those algae are out-competed by pest algae which are able to take up the CO2 more readily. This would cause the whole food chain to collapse.

      A warmer climate may well cause greater bio-diversity, but if that bio-diversity is a whole load of different pest algae and the larger predators at the top of the food chain die out, because they can't adapt to the cold, or because a key link in the chain dies out, that's hardly a desirable situation.

      I don't know what you're a doctor in, but it certainly isn't marine biology.

    3. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: "According to computer models...

      We don't always need Lewis to spread confusion, we already have you!! ;)

      More CO2 means more plants in the sea, so we will have more algae, but as CO2 increases, more Phytoplankton and less Zooplankton , so small animals (and some large ones) have less food. Bigger animals that depend on Zooplankton eaters have in turn less food, etc.

      So me have more Oxygen use in the night, but less oxygen, as Oxygen concentration diminishes with increases in temperature, and you end up with less fish. You might get plenty of jellyfish, if that's what you like...

    4. Asher Pat

      Re: "According to computer models...and always "much faster than expected"

      Noticed how all "climate change" (formerly (ie before the few cold years) - "global warming") always are negative? How always the scientists are "stunned" that the rate of whatever-deterioration is "much faster than expected" and is "accelerating sharply"?

      Well here is a conundrum. Let's assume that the shills are right, this time and that warmer waters mean faster metabolism, doesnt it mean that the fish will grow faster, therefore be bigger? And even if not, doesnt the lower size due to the boowoowoo climate change will result in lower need for oxygen? Lower need for oxygen, more oxigen for the fishes, more oxigen for the fishes, bigger fishes? It is called negative feedback, boffins.

      and finally, "we may be missing a big piece of the puzzle of understanding climate change effects in the ocean" - yea sure, and "we" need much more research budgets!

    5. Triggerfish

      Re: "According to computer models...

      You know what I agree that this report seems so much guff.

      But just to point out some fish do not do well in warmer waters, thinking rising CO2 levels will sort it out is not a good model either.

      1. DJ Smiley
        Linux

        Re: "According to computer models...

        But at teh same time some fish DO much better in warmer waters.... and guess what, most of those fish are larger!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "According to computer models...

          "...But at teh same time some fish DO much better in warmer waters..."

          Not if they are evolved to live in cold water and can't adjust fast enough as most probably they can't. What will most likely happen is they will stay in the waters which are at a temperature they are comfortable with, so as warm waters stretch further north/south, the coldwater fish will retreat still further north/south into an ever decreasing habitat.

        2. Triggerfish

          Re: "According to computer models...

          But at teh same time some fish DO much better in warmer waters....

          *But not the cod which is what this article is about.

          and guess what, most of those fish are larger!

          *No they are not.

          1. perlcat
            Facepalm

            Re: "According to computer models...

            According to the good doctor's logic, he can state with absolute assurance that he has had soup du jour, it was chicken, and [bedevere voice]logically,[/bedevere voice] every time you have soup du jour, it will be chicken for you as well.

            Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    According to something I saw on Twitter the other day we have bigger problems

    http://i.imgur.com/fs8Kk.png

    The true cause of sea levels rising, maybe?

  4. graeme leggett

    smaller portions for years

    can't remember the last time I saw a "large plaice" down the chip shop that actually was large.

    In my youth a large portion would cover half the plate.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: smaller portions for years

      Maybe they had smaller plates when you were younger.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: smaller portions for years

        "Maybe they had smaller plates when you were younger."

        Impossible, everything was bigger and deeper when we were younger. Apart from us and our voices respectively.

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: smaller portions for years

      You've been going to the wrong fish and chip shop. You should try a little Greek one I know. It's called The Plaice That Launched A Thousand Chips.

    3. Naughtyhorse

      Re: smaller portions for years

      hey isnt that waggon wheels??

    4. Magani
      Coat

      Re: smaller portions for years

      "In my youth a large portion would cover half the plate."

      I, too, am worried about the shrinking size of my cod piece.

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: smaller portions for years

        Nicely played and +1 internets to you!

    5. Peter Johnstone

      Re: smaller portions for years

      A lot of 'portions' now seem to be half a fish whereas in the past you'd have got a whole fish.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: smaller portions for years

        Ahh but is that teeny fish or just mean-hearted chippy owners? :P

        (not saying they all are, mind)

  5. electricmonk
    Facepalm

    Re: Where's Lewis when you need him?

    Good question. I was just thinking to myself, "What this article *really* needs to round it off is five paragraphs of knee-jerk ranting."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Mushroom

      Re: Where's Lewis when you need him?

      If shrinking fish and chip portions doesn't warrant a damn good rant I don't know what does!

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: Where's Lewis when you need him?

        Disappearing bacon. It's far more important than mere fish!

  6. M7S

    How far up the food chain will this go?

    WIll predators be affected in the same way, i.e. a reduction in size as the size of the food pyramid shrinks? If this is the case, rather than there simply being fewer of them, then those lasers are going to have to be miniarurised further.

    On the upside I might finally be able to keep a laser equipped shark in the bath. That should peturb the (white, obligatory colour) cat.

  7. Robinson
    Facepalm

    Don't worry...

    There's a solution: Simply bring an asteroid into orbit around the Earth to block out the Sun.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2210798/Global-warming-combatted-asteroid-dust-acting-like-sunshade-earth-scientists-say.html

    , from exquisitely stupid scientists at the University of Strathclyde. Motto: Doing our best to destroy public trust in Science.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't worry...

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech

      Is all you need to know. Actually, maybe we should coin the term "Daily Mail Science" for articles like that.

      I like the guy in the comments suggesting that we should plant trees in the desert to combat global warming and create a rainforest though. That's a sound plan, I'll get my bucket and spade.

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Don't worry...

        The prime reason they ARE deserts is that all the tress have been cut down over millenia for firewood and nary a one replaced. Replanting would be good for the earth.

    2. fishman

      Re: Don't worry...

      <<<There's a solution: Simply bring an asteroid into orbit around the Earth to block out the Sun.>>>

      Sounds great - what could possibly go wrong?

  8. haloburn
    Stop

    Outlook for pisces not so good.....

    Actually it should be criminal to report the projection of computer models as if they were an established fact, either that or get in the Astrology column where it belongs. Mystic Meg could become a lead author for the next IPCC report.

  9. Falanx
    Mushroom

    I'm sorry?

    It's strange... that all the fish with high metabolic rates tend to be bloody huge. Tuna, Mackerel sharks, that sort of thing. Odd that peopl estudying fish missed that one.

    Is the shrinking size of fish suppers now not more to do with overfishing that means younger and younger fish are dragged from the ocean, before their prime?

    And to think, I'm so tired of this ass-poor correlation automatically equalling causation mentality, that I was actually expecting their assertion to be that higher temperatures lead to lower solubility of oxygen in water, per se, in line with the general dissolution of gas in liquids. Someone might want to call the Devonian period and ask about how small the Dunkleosteus were then...

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: I'm sorry?

      Sorry, that's nonsense.

      Current living beings are adapted to currecnt conditions. And if those conditions change quickly enough, most species will simply die.

      If conditions permit it, new species will appear, but you and I won't see it...as it can take lots of time.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: I'm sorry?

      Are you sure of that?

      White sharks they think have a slow metabolic rate.

      I would have thought Longimanus has a pretty slow metabolic rate as well because of its lifestyle.

      With pelagic species if anything I would have expected slow metabolic rates as they travel big distances between food.

  10. mememine69

    Science has betrayed us as they still refuse to say any crisis “WILL” happen, only “might” and “could” and…

    NOT ONE single IPCC warning is without “maybes” despite “being at the tipping point, maybe” and threatening the voter’s children with deaths by CO2 is as good as voting for Romneycon. Climate change was Liberalism’s Iraq War of Climate WMD lies and fear mongering.

    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.

    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.

    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.

    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

    Meanwhile, the entire world of SCIENCE, lazy copy and paste journalism and Liberal progressivism had allowed bank-funded and corporate-run “CARBON TRADING STOCK MARKETS”(ruled by trustworthy politicians) to trump the UN's and entire world's efforts into 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 26 years of insane attempts at climate CONTROL.

    1. EvilGav 1
      FAIL

      What you've displayed is the clear position of someone who doesn't understand science and/or the scientific method.

      If you did, then you would know that no scientist will ever say "if x happens, then y *will* happen", they may, in some of the more stable and accepted scientific answers (say, for example, Boyles Law), say that "if x happens, then we expect to see y".

      The reason for this is that science doesn't work with absolutes, it works with probabilities and with any probability you have to accept that even at a tiny level, you could be wrong (this is why it's still called the Theory of Evolution).

      If you want to talk in absolute's, talk to a politician, religious fanatic or a sales-man.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not to worry!

    Atlantic cod are already declining in numbers; with a bit more aggressive fishing they can be properly wiped out rather than merely shrunk.

    Best thing is, this can happen even if global warming turns out to be nonsense!

    1. Psyx
      Pint

      Re: Not to worry!

      "Atlantic cod are already declining in numbers; with a bit more aggressive fishing they can be properly wiped out rather than merely shrunk."

      I feel sufficiently guilty to have stopped eating cod or tuna.

      Unless I'm drunk, and the fish shop is on the way home, and I forget.

      But *mainly* I've stopped eating it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not to worry!

        OK, I am going to be a bit anecdote-ey here, but my auntie who used to live on a croft in an island-y UK location with a nice little beach as part of it, used to get very pissed off indeed at trawlers coming in nearly onto the rocks and hoovering up basically anything that had any protein in it (sandeels, any other fish etc).

        Then people would wonder why the birdlife - puffins etc were always starving.

        And why it was so hard to catch anything anymore in an open boat with a traditional hand-line.

        As far as I know most of the fish caught in this way is not for eating, just minced into animal feed, no-one gets to see an actual fish. I think a lot of ocean fish are disappearing this way, and not just into feed for farm animals, it's also made into petfood. And lets not forget all the feed for fish farms, normally salmon farms.

        Which might explain why it is hard to get a decent fish, so clearly people are eating less actual fish than before, but strangely the supply is dropping too!

        Also, isn't some fish protein made into organic fertiliser? :P

  12. ukgnome

    What is that sound?

    Oh yeah, that's the sound of northern Britain weeping

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      While you Londoners continue to dine on caviar and champagne, making snide remarks about those who reside outside of the M25 ring of concrete, I am particularly concerned about the potential knock on that smaller Fish Suppers will have on the Computer Science departments of Scottish Universities.

  13. Not_The_Droids
    IT Angle

    Whew, I'm OK.

    Glad to be a beef-eating 'merican, our cows aren't shrinking. You Brits might lose some weight due to your shrinking fishies, but we won't be. Whew.

    Fishy, fishy, fishy, fish, that went wherever I did go...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whew, I'm OK.

      Notwithstanding the things chip shops do to it, fish is generally good for you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whew, I'm OK.

      Your cows aren't shrinking?

      Yet last time I had a "burger" from a US-based fast food "restaurant", all I got was a skimpy slice of "meat"* in half a bap.

      At least when I visit a chip shop in the UK and Ireland and order a Fish Supper I know what I'm getting. Cod is increasing in price, though other fish such as Haddock are coming in slightly cheaper.

      * May or may not contain actual meat. Offal etc is still classed as Beef.

  14. Tom Reg

    Does not take much to get into Nature Climate Change

    'Papers' like this will and are lowering Nature's stature.

  15. Grumble

    The biggest cod

    I ever saw was over the shoulder of a fishing boat skipper in Arbroath back in the late 50's. It's tail was dragging on the ground as he carried it into our kitchen after my old man, who was an engineer in the Royal Navy, had done said skipper big favour.

  16. thegrouch
    Trollface

    Hmm, I think you're more likely to be getting served Pollock rather than Cod these days. Not that the man in the chip shop will tell you that...

  17. Michael 36
    Headmaster

    Facts please

    "The scientists have warned that the body weight of fish, including North Sea haddock and cod, will drop" ...... "if oceans warm up."

    So how much is warmer is the North Sea?

  18. csmac3144

    Scary future!

    Climate change will also cause:

    - ankle thickening

    - cranky spiders

    - upstairs tenants

    - dark matter stains

    - morbid fear of steganography

    - more, no wait, less water in that pond over there

    AND MORE!!!!

    1. Michael 36

      Re: Scary future!

      ...and of course the wettest droughts (since records began)....

  19. pieeater3142
    Trollface

    Am I the only one more concerned that fish and chips was originally a Jewish dish, and thus not really quintessentially British?

    1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Yes. Yes you are.

    2. Mephistro Silver badge
      Joke

      @ pieeater3142

      I think the last 'Burnt Rat on a Stick' franchise closed some time around the end of the Middle Ages, though their influence in British gastronomy still remains strong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ pieeater3142

        Most British cuisine seems to have been derived either from neccessity or from external influences.

        Stew, Cornish Pasties, Pies, Smoked Fish - neccessity

        Fish and chips, Pizza, Spag Bol, Sweet and Sour, Curry - external influences

  20. Bucky 2
    Mushroom

    Appropriate consequences

    Hmm. Perhaps this warning is the God's truth.

    But if it's NOT, I want some ancient-Egyptian-esque consequences.

    If a doomsayer is WRONG, I think he should be forced to live in the world he predicted (e.g.: if it was end-of-the-world stuff, he should be put to death. In this case, he would be required to pay outlandish prices for very tiny portions of fish).

    This would be applicable both for the scientist who did the prediction as well as the journalist who repeated him.

    1. mememine69

      Re: Appropriate consequences

      Ug ug The weather gods are angry.

      Can we evolve please people? Reason, not religion.

  21. mememine69
    Thumb Up

    Science has never said a crisis WILL happen, only maybe and could be and likely and......

    Romney thanks you for fear mongering votes his way by condemning the voter's children to their CO2 deaths. Nice job girls.

    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.

    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.

    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.

    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

    Meanwhile, the entire world of SCIENCE, lazy copy and paste journalism and Liberal progressivism had allowed bank-funded and corporate-run “CARBON TRADING STOCK MARKETS”(ruled by trustworthy politicians) to trump the UN's and entire world's efforts into 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 26 years of insane attempts at climate CONTROL.

    Climate change was exaggerated. Be happy.

  22. Jtom

    It's idiotic 'studies' like this that gives scientists - real ones - a bad image.

    Try this mental exercise and come to your own conclusion:

    You are a cold-water fish. Your water is getting warmer (not by much, but we'll let that slide for now), and you need more oxygen to grow and function properly. What do you do? Stay where you are and suffer, or swim to cooler waters (which lie just north of where you are)? The fish aren't where they are because it's their 'homeland' and they're just lucky that the environment is perfect for them. They are where they are because of the environment, and when it changes, they will move accordingly. At least that's what all forms of life have been doing for eons.

    Enjoy your fish and chips. Don't forget the malt vinegar, and remember to eat your peas.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      err...

      What if the bottom of the food chain doesn't have to move? Do you go north where there are more pleasant waters, but no food or stay where you are? hmm?

      In the words of Ben Goldacre: "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that."

  23. heystoopid
    Trollface

    @Darwin & @ According to Computer Models

    Reality has a liberal bias.

    Reading be a luxury and there is an old wise political saying or two created by the man who created the "American 'National Academy of Sciences' ".

    They go like so :-

    "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt!."

    "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today."

    "You may deceive all the people part of the time, and part of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time."

    Such is life!

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