Climate change not to blame for cod population decline

Three decades of increasing temperature were expected to cause cod stocks to decline in the North Sea and Gulf of Maine, but they increased in the North Sea and declined in the Gulf of Maine. These trends are due to changes in fishing pressure rather than climate change.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Cod stocks and fishing mortality in the Gulf of Maine and North Sea.
Fig. 2: North Atlantic cod stocks with habitat temperatures.


  1. 1.

    Pershing, A. J. et al. Science 350, 809–812 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Lavelle, M. Collapse of New England’s iconic cod tied to climate change. Science (29 October 2015).

  3. 3.

    Carrington, D. Sustainable British cod on the menu after stocks recover. The Guardian (19 July 2017);

  4. 4.

    Larsen, K. M. H., Gonzalez-Pola, C., Fratantoni, P., Beszczynska-Möller, A. & Hughes, S. L. ICES Report on Ocean Climate 2015 ICES Cooperative Research Report No. 331 (ICES, 2016).

  5. 5.

    Wang, H. et al. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 514, 217–229 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Brander, K. M. et al. in North Sea Region Climate Change Assessment (eds Quante, M. & Colijn, F.) 241–274 (Springer Nature, 2016).

  7. 7.

    Palmer, M. 2014 Assessment Update Report of the Gulf of Maine Atlantic Cod Stock (US Department of Commerce Northeast Fisheries Center, 2014);

  8. 8.

    ICES CM 2017/ACOM:21 WGNSSK Report 2017 (ICES, 2017);

  9. 9.

    Palmer, M., Deroba, J. J., Legault, C. M. & Brooks, E. M. Science 352, 423 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Swain, D. P., Benoît, H. P., Cox, S. P. & Cadigan, N. G. Science 352, 423 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Pershing, A. J. et al. Science 352, 423 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    ICES Advice 2014: Cod in Subareas I and II (Northeast Arctic Cod) (ICES, 2014);

  13. 13.

    Thanks to sustainable fisheries Iceland’s cod stock now larger than at any time since 1985. Iceland Magazine (19 April 2017);

  14. 14.

    Lindegren, M. et al. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 277, 2121–2130 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Le Bris, A. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 1831–1836 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Drinkwater, K. F. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 62, 1327–1337 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    IPCC Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis (eds Houghton, J. T. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001).

  18. 18.

    Planque, B. ICES J. Mar. Sci. 73, 204–208 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Keith M. Brander.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Brander, K.M. Climate change not to blame for cod population decline. Nat Sustain 1, 262–264 (2018).

Download citation

Further reading


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing