Two hydrodynamic and ecological models were used to investigate the effects of climate change-according to the IPCC A1b emission scenario - on the primary productivity of the North Sea and on harmful algal blooms. Both models were forced with atmospheric fields from a regional downscaling of General Circulation Models to compare two sets of 20-year simulations representative of present climate (1984-2004) conditions and of the 2040s. Both models indicated a general warming of the North Sea by up to 0.8°C and a slight freshening by the 2040s. The models suggested that the eastern North Sea would be subjected to more temperature and salinity changes than the western part. In addition, the ecological modules of the models indicated that the warming up of the sea would result in a slightly earlier spring bloom. The one model that also computes the distribution of four different phytoplankton groups suggests an increase in the abundance of dinoflagellates, whereas the abundance of diatoms, flagellates and Phaeocystis sp. remains comparable to current levels, or decrease. Assuming that Dinophysis spp. would experience a similar increase in abundance as the modelled group of dinoflagellates, it is hypothesised that blooms of Dinophysis spp. may occur more frequently in the North Sea by 2040. However, implications for shellfish toxicity remain unclear.