Irish Marine Survey Reveals Fivefold Increase in Anchovy Schools as Ocean Temperatures Rise

Dramatic rise in anchovy and sardine populations in the Celtic Sea linked to record-high sea temperatures, highlighting the alarming impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.

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Shivani Chauhan
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Irish Marine Survey Reveals Fivefold Increase in Anchovy Schools as Ocean Temperatures Rise

Irish Marine Survey Reveals Fivefold Increase in Anchovy Schools as Ocean Temperatures Rise

In a recent survey conducted by the Irish Marine Institute, researchers recorded a staggering fivefold increase in anchovy schools in the Celtic Sea compared to 2020 levels. The survey, carried out in 2024, counted over 769 million individual anchovies and 767 million sardines in the region.

This significant increase in anchovy and sardine populations is attributed to the continued rise in global sea-surface temperatures, which reached a record high of 21.1°C in the Celtic Sea last year "the warmest in the past 100,000 years" according to the survey findings.

The Irish Marine Institute's survey also found evidence of increases in warm-water species to the south of Ireland this century, with an increased abundance of European anchovy noted in both scientific surveys and commercial catches. Ocean heatwaves are colliding with the warmest conditions ever observed on land, prompting climate experts to work towards understanding the causes and implications of this unprecedented heat anomaly.

Why this matters: The rapid heating of the world's oceans has alarmed scientists, as it can lead to the killing off of marine life, more extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. The changes in fish populations and migration patterns have significant implications for marine ecosystems, commercial fishing industries, and coastal communities that depend on these resources.

Experts believe that a strong El Niño weather event, which further heats the ocean, will also set in over the next months, exacerbating the already warming conditions. The study highlights that the Earth has accumulated almost as much heat in the past 15 years as in the previous 50 percent of its history, with most of the extra energy being absorbed by the oceans.

The warming of the oceans, driven by human-caused climate change, is having far-reaching consequences on marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Experts warn that the weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a crucial system of ocean currents, is contributing to sea level rise and the intensification of tropical storms and hurricanes.

The Irish Marine Institute's survey serves as a sobering reminder of the rapid changes occurring in our oceans due to climate change. As sea-surface temperatures continue to rise, it is essential for individuals, businesses, and governments to take collective action in reducing carbon footprints, supporting sustainable practices, and advocating for climate solutions to mitigate the impacts on marine life and coastal communities.

Key Takeaways

  • Anchovy and sardine populations in the Celtic Sea increased 5-fold since 2020.
  • Record-high sea surface temperatures of 21.1°C in the Celtic Sea in 2023.
  • Warm-water species abundance increased south of Ireland due to ocean heatwaves.
  • Weakening of Atlantic currents contributing to sea level rise and extreme weather.
  • Urgent need for climate action to mitigate impacts on marine ecosystems and communities.