Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation — Seafish

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation

We produce climate change adaptation reports and keep a watching brief on how climate change impacts on UK seafood supply chains.
Collage of crashing waves, hurricane, heavy rainfall and sun over sea
Climate change could impact the seafood industry through changes in storminess and air or water temperature

The importance of climate change adaptation

Climate change is one of several longer-term developments which influence the global food system. It is recognised as one of the major challenges facing humanity and adapting to the impacts of climate change presents a strategic challenge for the seafood industry.

With increasing volatility in weather and wider changes in environmental conditions, the importance of climate change adaptation is increasing. Climate change developments are likely to affect nearly every part of the seafood industry, from production to consumption. Some of the ways climate change could challenge seafood supply chain operations include:

  • Changes in storminess and waves could compromise vessel and crew safety, damage port infrastructure and vessels (happening now).
  • Air and water temperature change could change the distribution of some wild caught species and might yet affect the range of farmed species (happening now).
  • Changes in terrestrial rainfall could mean surface flooding of land-based infrastructure, affecting water quality and salinity of nearshore waters (impacts may be seen by 2040).
  • Sea level rise/extreme water levels could increase the risk of coastal flooding of onshore infrastructure (may be seen by 2070).
  • Ocean acidification might affect fish in low oxygen waters and shellfish where acidification affects their ability to form shells (with some uncertainty, impacts may be seen by 2070).

It’s important that industry understands where climate change will have major impacts so that businesses and other stakeholders can identify where adaptation action may be required. We are working with partners in industry and academia to review impacts and identify how seafood businesses and others may need to respond. We also submit these reports to Government to keep them informed of relevant industry impacts, opportunities and threats.

Our adaptation reports focus on UK seafood supply chains reliant on aquaculture, and those reliant on wild capture. These reports consider both UK domestic and international supply chains.

The front covers of our adaptation in UK seafood reports

Review of climate change adaptation in aquaculture

Our latest review focuses on understanding and responding to climate change in aquaculture sourced seafood. We undertook a review exercise in 2018/19. This was carried out in partnership with Scottish Salmon Producers Association, the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling and Cefas.

The review looked at impacts across the aquaculture supply chain including in:

  • capture / broodstock cultivation
  • hatching and nurseries
  • farming, harvesting, and slaughtering
  • processing and storing and
  • transport and distribution.

It covers the key commercially traded aquaculture species relevant to UK seafood:

  • salmon and trout
  • bivalve shellfish
  • seabass and seabream
  • pangasius and tilapia and
  • warm water prawn.

The findings of the review have been collated into a full report, a summary report and an infographic covering:

  • UK seafood industry – an overview of the systems relevant to aquaculture
  • Climate change background – a summary of the main impacts observed by scientists and experienced on the ground by industry
  • Key impacts and adaptation responses – the risks and opportunities affecting aquaculture sourced seafood from domestic and international locations
  • Next steps – proposals for adaptation responses and recommendations on next steps for aquaculture stakeholders

You can download these documents from the links below.

Review of climate change adaptation in wild capture

In 2014/15 we collaborated with external experts to review climate change impacts on wild-capture seafood supply chains. This research looked at seafood sourced from UK waters and elsewhere. Partners involved in the research included the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP), Stewart Brown Associates and industry stakeholders.

The findings from the research were shared in our climate change adaptation report published in 2016. The report identifies the impacts of climate change on the UK seafood industry with a focus on wild capture seafood. It also describes how the industry can respond and adapt to these impacts. You can download it and additional documents relating to the report from the links below:

We are planning to update the review of climate change adaptation in wild capture next year.

Ongoing climate change watching brief 

We continue to keep a watching brief on the impacts of climate change. Each year, we share our watching brief report for industry and others to use. These briefs highlight important UK industry experiences of climate change in both domestic and international contexts.

Our latest watching brief report was published in spring 2022. It considers recent advances in understanding and industry experience of climate change drivers and impacts across 2020 and 2021.

The review highlights opportunities to enhance, as well as factors undermining, climate change adaptation in UK seafood. In domestic supply chains, several developments undermine the ability of the industry to adapt to climate change. These include limited science-industry collaboration and the introduction of inflexible institutional arrangements (the UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement, and policy priorities shaped by environmental rather than socio-economic considerations). In international sourcing, market led initiatives could potentially play a critical role in adaptation, but this is more challenging when overseas suppliers have an opportunity to switch to alternative markets without the same level of scrutiny.

You can download a copy from the link below:

Cover of 2020-21 Climate Change Adaptation Watching brief report

Older watching brief reports are available to download from the links below.

Further information and contacts

If you have any queries about our climate change adaptation work please contact