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Climate change and European aquatic RESources

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CERES (Climate change and European aquatic RESources)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-02-29

Fish and shellfish harvested from capture fisheries and aquaculture play a critical role for global food security. In these two Blue Growth sectors, Europe directly employs about 450,000 fishers and farmers but the economic and cultural importance is considerably larger as Europe is the largest single market for fish and fish products in the world. A primary objective of the EU is to sustainably grow the European aquaculture sector and effectively manage its fish stocks to promote self-sufficiency in the domestic supply of fish and shellfish. Long-term management plans will need to consider the future impacts of climate change on these aquatic living resources and the human communities that depend on them.

Unequivocal evidence for the impacts of climate change on aquatic habitats, such as ocean heating and acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise and changes in rainfall patterns, has increased at an alarming rate. Fish and shellfish resources in the sea and in inland waters have been profoundly impacted by climate change as evidenced by shifts in their distribution and/or productivity. Focusing on Europe’s most valuable fish and shellfish resources, CERES provides a step change in the knowledge and tools needed to successfully adapt European fisheries and aquaculture sectors in marine and inland waters to anticipated climate change.
CERES programme activities and results are provided in 24 region- and sector-specific “Storylines” (see
•Projected the physical and biogeochemical impacts of CC on European marine and inland waters using an intermediate (4.5) and a worst-case (8.5) IPCC Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) greenhouse gas emission scenarios. In the latter (‘RCP8.5’) scenario, region-specific warming of aquatic habitats is between 2.0 and 4.0 °C by 2100. Decreases in the productivity at the base of the aquatic food web are expected. Rainfall and river discharge are projected to decrease in southern Europe and increase across the north, though there are local differences.
•Created four PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal) CC scenarios for both European fisheries and aquaculture sectors and regionalized them using stakeholder perceptions. These four CERES scenarios enable consistent exploration of the bioeconomic impacts of CC within each sector.
•Engaged stakeholders using various techniques (questionnaires, face-to-face interviews) obtaining region- and sector-specific perspectives on the risks and opportunities of CC needed for qualitative as well as quantitative analyses.
•Reviewed the direct effects of CC on 37 high-value fishery and aquaculture species identifying gaps in knowledge (e.g. on specific life stages, how factors interact to affect the growth and survival) as well as cause-effect relationships.
•Analysed long-term, historical data on valuable fisheries targets (12 stocks / groups). In one third of the cases, fishing as opposed to climate appeared to be the major driver of changes in abundance (stock size) or fish size structure.
•Projected the future biological impacts of CC on European fisheries targets (12 models, > 40 stocks) including changes in productivity and/or distribution. Across European regions, both CC “winners” and “losers” are expected. Estimates from different types of models often agree adding confidence to these findings.
•Estimated the profitability of a variety of fleets (mixed- or single-species demersal and pelagic fisheries) across five regional seas using four CC scenarios. At mid-century (2050), changes in fuel and fish prices are stronger drivers of profitability than the biological impacts of CC.
•Ranked the CC risks of the fisheries within 26 European nations including 123 species (523 stocks) and 404 fleet segments. While a wide diversity of climate risk exists, smaller vessels and dredgers tend to have higher risk due to the biological features of their stock, their current profitability, and diversity of their catch.
•Examined the indirect effects of CC on the aquaculture sector including requirements for advanced warning of harmful jellyfish and algal blooms. Produced maps of the mid-century (2050) and late-century (2100) changes in the risks of disease from pathogens infecting fish and shellfish.
•Performed region- and farm-specific projections of the direct (temperature) and indirect (disease) impacts of CC on growth performance of species (5 finfish and 3 shellfish) and whole-farm production (> 10 regions/sites). CC impact is region- and species-specific ranging from strongly positive (for some finfish) to negative (some shellfish).
•Created 10 species- and region-specific ‘Typical Farms’ and calculated the economic consequences of the four CERES scenarios. Although profitability in 2050 is driven by scenario-specific assumptions of fish and feed prices, present-day profit margin is a good predictor of future profitability.
•Ranked the vulnerability of the European aquaculture sector based on physiological tolerance of 9 key species and national economic data for 22 nations. Coastal shellfish and carp pond culture are vulnerable due to a lack of production control. Several Mediterranean countries are vulnerable due to a relatively high economic reliance on aquaculture combined with less a
CERES contributed substantial benefits and societal impact for the European fisheries and aquaculture sectors in the face of climate change by reducing uncertainties and risk, and providing information allowing these sectors (their businesses and decision-makers) to anticipate, prepare and adapt, and to identify future opportunities.

CERES advanced and applied state-of-the-art tools offering the best science-based advice on the physical, biogeochemical, biological impacts of climate change on fish and shellfish and the bioeconomic impact to human communities (fishers and farmers) that depend on these resources. Integrated results and analyses were shared, discussed and delivered through dialogue with key industry and policy stakeholders to offer both bottom-up (industry driven) and top-down (policy) solutions.

Key outputs of the project, including online tools for fishers, farmers and policymakers, are available on the project website ( including 24 region- and sector-specific Storylines and a Final Synthesis Report comparing results within the fisheries and aquaculture sectors across European regions (from the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic coast of southern Europe, the NE Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic Sea, to the Barents / Norwegian Seas and across inland waters.
Marine Fish Farm, copyright Rui Ferreira