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In Perspective

Dec 18,2007 SACN

"At the turn of the 20th Century, UK boats caught six to eight times more cod from the North Sea than today using much more primitive technology. Cod stocks then were at least ten times greater than today.

Book cover
Cod of vast size were caught in the North Sea in previous centuries
Rewind another 50 years to the middle 19th century, and stocks were at least twice as great again as in 1900.

It gets harder to estimate population sizes before this time, but anecdotes suggest even higher abundance.

In the early 19th Century, for example, three fishers working with handlines on the Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea were said to have caught 1,600 cod in a day.

If they worked a 16-hour day, not unusual at the time, each man would have landed around one cod every five minutes for the entire day.

And the cod were much larger then. Metre-long specimens filled the floors of fish markets in the 19th Century and were sold individually.

Today, most cod landed are only around 45-to-55cm long (six to nine times less heavy than a metre-long fish).

Taken together, these figures suggest that cod was once 30 to 50 times more abundant in the North Sea than it is today. "

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