A regime shift in the North Sea circa 1988 linked to changes in the North Sea horse mackerel fishery
Reid, P.C. and Borges, M. de F. and Svendsen, E. (2001) A regime shift in the North Sea circa 1988 linked to changes in the North Sea horse mackerel fishery. Fisheries Research, 50 (1/2). pp. 163-171. ISSN 0165-7836
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After 1987, Phytoplankton Colour (a visual estimate of chlorophyll) measured on samples taken by the continuous plankton recorder (CPR) in the North Sea increased substantially, both in level and seasonal extent, compared to earlier years since 1946. Many species of phytoplankton and zooplankton showed marked changes in abundance at about the same time. These events coincided with a large increase in catches of the western stock of the horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus L.) in the northern North Sea reflecting a northerly expansion of the stock along the shelf edge from the Bay of Biscay to the North Sea after 1987. Using a 3D hydrodynamic model, with input from measured wind parameters, monthly transport of oceanic water into the North Sea has been calculated for the period 1976–1994, integrated for a section from Orkney to Shetland to Norway. A substantial increase in oceanic inflow occurred in the winter months, December to March, from 1988. Higher sea surface temperatures were also measured after 1987 especially in spring and summer months. These biological and physical events may be a response to observed changes in pressure distribution over the North Atlantic. From 1988 onwards, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index, the pressure difference between Iceland and the Azores, increased to the highest positive level observed in this century. Positive NAO anomalies are associated with stronger and more southerly tracks of the westerly winds and higher temperatures in western Europe. These changing wind distributions may have led to an increase in the northerly advection of water along the western edge of the European shelf and may have assisted the migration of the horse mackerel. This study is possibly a unique demonstration of a correlation between three different trophic levels of a marine ecosystem and hydrographic and atmospheric events at decadal and regional scales. The results emphasise the importance of maintaining into the future long term programmes such as the CPR.
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