Various commercial fish stocks that are currently being fished by the Flemish fleet are undergoing changes in density and distribution as a result of climate change. These changes are expected to continue in future. There is no clear explanation for the change in frequency of heavy storms for the areas that are fished by Belgian vessels. Fishing can also be adversely affected by new invasive species that appear and the disappearance of commercial species (grey shrimp, cod, etc.) because of climate change. Jellyfish constitute a significant danger in this regard. The invasiveness of the comb jelly M. Leidyi in the North Sea in the 80s has led to a major change in the marine ecosystem and economic losses.

An optimal fleet is sufficiently flexible and robust to adequately respond to fluctuating circumstances, including climate change, and has no further imbalance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities. In addition to economic and social considerations, the design of this fleet must be based on an ecosystem approach, in which living aquatic resources are sustainably managed within ecological limits. This means that the entire ecosystem, and not just the isolated element that is economically important, must be considered. The starting point in this regard is long-term management plans based on the best available scientific advice, including the effects of anticipated climatological changes. This approach aims to minimise both the direct and indirect effects of fishing on the future functioning, diversity and integrity of the ecosystems in question.

Poor weather conditions can hinder work on board a fishing vessel and increase the risk to both the crew and the vessel. The potential risk is determined not only by wind speed, but also by wind direction, the type of vessel and the applied fishing method. Although it is not yet possible to unambiguously forecast the change in intensity and frequency of storms for the areas in which the Belgian fleet is active, increasing safety is something that concerns the entire fishing sector.

Research and monitoring of climate change impacts on fish populations) (ILVO)

The MEMO European Interreg funded project lead by ILVO, working together with 5 other international scientific research institutes had as goal:

  • Development of standard procedures for identification, monitoring and modeling of potential habitat and population dynamics of M. leidyi.
  • Study of the physiology, eating behavior and potential predators of the species through experiments and mathematical models.
  • Evaluation of the potential environmental and socio-economic costs of the impact of the species by an ecosystem- based approach.