The MCCIP is a body of over 150 scientists from 50 leading science organisations in the British Isles, working in partnership to investigate the effects climate change will have on the marine environment. The 2013 report card summarises the findings from 33 different work streams, and incorporates significant amounts of data collected by the Government Laboratory in Douglas, part of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.
A major finding reported by the MCCIP is that sea temperatures are still rising, notwithstanding short term variability. The report also indicates that further changes are expected in plankton throughout seas surrounding the British Isles, following a significant decrease already noted in some cold-water species of zooplankton (animal plankton). Such changes may have significant knock-on effects across the marine food-chain, for example a likely effect is a change in white fish populations, with fish like cod and monkfish replaced by others such as John Dory and Red Mullet, which can affect both fishing techniques and the fish on the market, at least from local sources. Meanwhile warmer sea temperatures may increase scallop growth rates around the Isle of Man, to the benefit of our scallop fishing industry.
The report also shows how Arctic sea ice has further depleted in recent years. Whilst having implications for the environment, this is noted as having possible benefits for shipping between Europe and Asia. Predictions of sea-level rise published by MCCIP are focussed on London, where it is suggested that by 2095 the sea level is likely to be between 21 and 68 cm higher than it was in 1990. Given our more northerly latitude it is likely to be marginally less for the Isle of Man.
Minister for the Environment, Food and Agriculture, Phil Gawne, MHK, said:
'The Isle of Man has a long history of monitoring the marine environment, reflecting our dependence on the sea. Some observations date back more than a century, initiated by scientists at the former marine laboratory in Port Erin. In view of their importance, many of these measurements are continued today by the Government Laboratory alongside its other vital work, with the result that the Isle of Man has some of the longest running time series of marine environmental variables not only in the British Isles but worldwide.'
'The data, which include temperature, salinity, nutrients and phytoplankton, not only give us an idea of what is happening in Manx waters at the present time, but also allow us to see how marine systems have changed through time and potentially anticipate what may happen in the future. This information is important for the present and future viability of our fishing industry, supporting our economy while helping us safeguard our natural resources.'
'The long term data records are also important contributions to international studies about climate change, helping both in identifying that change is happening and assessing the effects, which in turn helps focus work to reduce the effects on us.'
The Port Erin sea temperature time series shows a rising trend in temperature, with an overall increase of approximately 1°C over the past century, the net rate of rise notably having become much more rapid in the last 30 years. These trends are comparable with other records of marine and atmospheric temperature and confirm that Manx waters are responding to global climate change in a similar manner. Globally sea temperatures are rising quicker now than at any time since records began.
Whilst an increase of 1°C may not seem a lot, it does signify that huge amounts of energy are being transferred from the atmosphere to the oceans. This warming will have implications for marine ecosystems and how humans interact with the sea and its resources. Changing sea temperatures are also likely to affect sea currents and associated air currents, which in turn affect climate and weather.