Climate change has been predicted to lead to changes in local and regional species richness through species extinctions and latitudinal ranges shifts. Here, we show that species richness of fish in the North Sea, a group of ecological and socio-economical importance, has increased over a 22-year period and that this rise is related to higher water temperatures. Over eight times more fish species displayed increased distribution ranges in the North Sea (mainly small-sized species of southerly origin) compared with those whose range decreased (primarily large and northerly species). This increase in species richness can be explained from the fact that fish species richness in general decreases with latitude. This observation confirms that the interaction between large-scale biogeographical patterns and climate change may lead to increasing species richness at temperate latitudes.