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[greenyes] Climate Change Around British Isles

The Independent

Britannia ruins the waves: how pollution and over-fishing are destroying sea 
life

Fish are changing sex. Species are disappearing as breeding patterns 
collapse. The food chain is in chaos as temperatures rise, says the first 
ever major audit of the state of our seas. Severin Carrell reveals what 
ministers will say on Tuesday about the damage being done to British waters 
by industry and global warming

27 February 2005

Britain's seas are seriously ailing and the species that depend on them 
suffering as never before. The most comprehensive "health check" ever made 
of the waters around our shores has revealed that, while Britannia once 
ruled the waves, now it is helping destroy what lives beneath them.

Fish stocks are on the brink of collapse. Species are changing sex because 
of pollution. Dolphins and porpoises are being killed at unprecedented 
rates. Water temperatures are rising, and the seabed is being destroyed.

In a disturbing insight into the state of our seas, the government-led 
investigation has found clear proof that the seas around the British Isles 
are already suffering the effects of global warming - threatening the 
survival of fish such as cod and raising the risk of a sudden, catastrophic 
change in weather patterns.

The study, compiled by the Department for Food, Environment and the Regions 
(Defra) after 18 months of reviewing all current marine research, found that 
water temperatures and sea levels are now rising around Britain, while salt 
levels are dropping because of melting Arctic ice caps. Meanwhile native 
plankton species - vital to the survival of many fish stocks - are slowly 
disappearing.

This deeply worrying picture has emerged from 900-page report, which is 
being published by ministers on Tuesday, into the true state of the seas 
around the British Isles - historically one of the world's richest marine 
environments. The audit, which has been peer reviewed, reveals how:
sea temperatures have risen by 0.6C a decade, and by up to 1.5C in winter; 
sea levels are rising by up to 2mm a year because of melting ice caps and 
increased rainfall;  sea water is becoming more acidic because of increasing 
carbon dioxide levels in the air; fish, such as cod, haddock, herring, blue 
whiting and sole, are being fished outside safe limits, with cod "in danger 
of collapse"; common skate and angel shark have disappeared from the Irish 
Sea and the Channel;
cold-water plankton - the most basic food stuff for young cod and other 
native species - is moving northwards and being replaced by warm-water 
plankton;
deep-sea trawlers are harming fish such as orange roughie and anglerfish, 
and devastating ancient and fragile coral beds off western Scotland;
winter storms are growing more intense and wave heights increasing by 30cm a 
decade, risking flooding and cliff erosion in regions such as East Anglia, 
north Wales and southern England; estuaries such as the Mersey, Clyde and 
Tees are showing "undesirably high" toxic contamination from heavy metals 
and chemicals, which has led to flounder and dab showing signs of cancer and 
suffering sex changes; a "significant" number of shellfish farms are unsafe 
and beaches are being closed due to sewage contamination; massive new 
offshore windfarms off Wales, north-west England and the South-east pose a 
"major challenge" to marine life.

The document forms a crucial part of a new Government campaign to combat 
climate change and introduce tough new controls on over-fishing, campaigns 
that will be stepped up this week.

Elliott Morley, the environment minister who oversaw the report, told The 
Independent on Sunday: "For the dwindling band of doubters, I would really 
recommend that they look at this report. It demonstrates there are serious 
problems with climatic change, and we've really got to get a grip on it. The 
longer we delay taking effective action, the more difficult it will be to 
turn things around. Even a five-year delay could be significant.""...

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