Warm water occupancy by North Sea cod

Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Mar 22;274(1611):789-98. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2006.0212.


The North Sea has warmed in recent years and there is an ongoing debate into how this is affecting the distribution of fishes and other marine organisms. Of particular interest is the commercially important Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.), which has declined sharply in abundance in the North Sea over the past 20 years. Observations of the temperature experienced by 129 individual cod throughout the North Sea were made during a large-scale electronic tagging programme conducted between 1999 and 2005. We asked whether individual cod fully occupied the thermal habitat available to them. To this end, we compared the temperature experience of cod with independently measured contemporaneous sea-bottom temperature data. The majority of cod experienced a warmer fraction of the sea than was potentially available to them. By summer, most of the individuals in the south experienced temperatures considered superoptimal for growth. Cooler waters were within the reach of the cod and a small number of individuals migrated to areas that allowed them to experience lower temperatures, indicating that the cod had the capacity to find cooler water. Most did not, however, suggesting that the changing thermal regime of the North Sea is not yet causing adult cod to move to cooler waters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gadus morhua / physiology*
  • Geography
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Homing Behavior*
  • North Sea
  • Temperature*
  • Water*


  • Water