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Keywords:

  • Baltic Sea;
  • descriptor;
  • indicator;
  • Kattegat;
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive;
  • North Sea;
  • regime shift

Abstract

The consequence of elevated ocean temperatures on commercial fish stocks is addressed using time series of commercial landings (1906–2004) and juvenile survey catch data (1904–2006) collected around Denmark. We analyze (i) whether warm-water sole (Solea solea) has increased relative to Boreal plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) and (ii) whether two related warm-water species (turbot, Psetta maxima and brill, Scophthalmus rhombus) show similar responses to increasing temperature or, alternatively, whether turbot (which has a broader juvenile diet) has been favored. Since the early 1980s, both sole and turbot have constituted an increasing part of the commercial landings and survey catches, as compared with plaice and brill, respectively. These changes in species composition were linked to sea surface temperatures, Northern Hemisphere temperature anomalies (NHA) and the North Atlantic Oscillation. NHA was closely related and explained 43% of the observed variation in sole survey catches relative to the plaice catches and almost 38% of the observed variation in the sole landings relative to the plaice landings. For the less common species, turbot and brill, none of the global change indicators explained more than 15% of the variation, although all showed a positive relationship. Survey catch per unit effort increased significantly for both sole and turbot around the early 1980s, whereas catch per unit effort for plaice and brill remained constant. The results indicate that the abundance of warm-water species is likely to increase with increasing temperature but also that species with similar life histories might react differently according to degree of specialization.