It’s one thing to police the close season for shooting grouse, say, or deer, in order to allow populations to rebuild to a healthy level. But how to deal with the global collapse in many fish stocks, when overfishing is close to destroying many species? It’s a tall order to shut down the North Sea, where stocks of cod, haddock and plaice, for example, are all perilously low.

The alarm is being sounded in many quarters, not least by fisheries biologists and Greenpeace. Now a new film, The End of the Line: Imagine a World Without Fish, which opens in the UK on Monday, joins the clamour.

Our graphic shows how dramatically the North Sea population of spawning-age cod has fallen over recent decades. And little wonder, given that a report published in Nature in 2003 showed that industrial fishing fleets needed no more than 15 years to devour 90 per cent of any new fish community they encountered.

Sources: Nature, May 15 2003 (lead author Ransom Myers, Dalhousie University, Canada); Dr Jeff Hutchings, Dalhousie University; International Council for the Exploration of the Sea

Graphic illustration of cod stocks in the North Sea

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