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British Fish and Chips Shops Are Running Out of Cod

Anyone for battered squid though?
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user felibrilu

Cod and chips. Cod and chips and a side order of mushy peas. Oh, and a couple of pickled onions. Better may that an extra large chips, actually. OK, fine: cod, large chips, mushy peas, five pickled onions, and a battered sausage.

Whatever your chip shop order of choice, it probably centres on some kind of battered fish. Cod when you're keeping it classic; maybe haddock or scampi bites if you're feeling fancy.


But new research from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries, and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) shows that we may need to rethink our go-to chippy orders as rising sea temperatures cause a decline in native fish populations.

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New data from Cefas, which has been monitoring North Sea fish populations for more than 100 years, shows that squid, sardines, anchovies, and other fish usually found in warmer Mediterranean waters are now flourishing on British shores. Squid are being caught at 60 percent of the fishing stations surveyed, compared to just 20 percent in the 1980s.

Commenting on the data, Dr John Pinnegar of Cefas told the BBC: "Twenty or 30 years ago we hardly saw squid in our surveys […] They're now increasing in UK because the waters are getting more conducive for those sorts of species, whereas other species are shifting the centre of their distribution towards the north of the UK."

Cod, on the other hand, is on the decline. There was 1.3 million tonnes of the fish in the North Sea in 1971, but this fell to 124,000 tonnes in 2004. Cefas say this is in part due to overfishing but could also be due to rising water temperatures, which have forced the fish to move north to colder climes.

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And with models predicting that North Sea temperatures will continue to rise, sardines could be a feature of British chip shops in the very near future.

Pinnegar, who will present the Cefas data at the British Ecological Society's annual meeting this week, told the Guardian: "UK consumers enjoy eating quite a limited range of seafood but in the long term, we will need to adapt our diets. In 2025 and beyond, we may need to replace cod and other old favourites with warm-water species such as squid, mackerel, sardine, and red mullet."

We'll still be able to get battered sausages though, right?