Cod – pass notes No 3,248

The declining number of sexually mature fish in the North Sea has left cod in crisis

Age: Not old enough.

Appearance: Imagine a fish.

How can a cod not be old enough? By being too young.

To do what? Drink fish beer? No.

Cast fish votes? No.

Have fish sex? In a sense, yes.

You're going to have to explain this one slowly. A study of North Sea cod carried out by Defra's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science has revealed that very few of them are living long enough to reach their sexual peak.

Because? We are overfishing them, of course. Left to their own devices they can live for up to 25 years. But now, thanks to decades of hauling them from the water before they have so much as imagined another fish naked, there are fewer than 300 cod left in the North Sea that are older than 13.

Which means? Which, since cod become more fertile as they age, means fewer experienced older lovers to populate future generations. Plucked from the sea in their millions by fishermen, the majority don't make it far beyond their first birthdays.

Really? Really. The study looked at 500,000 fish caught in North Sea ports across Europe and found not a single adult cod over the age of 13 among them. The figures suggest there are around 191 million one-year-old cod, just 18 million three-year-olds and fewer still aged four or over.

Can't the one-year-olds just do the reproducing themselves instead? Absolutely not. The one-year-olds are just kids. Cod don't even reach sexual maturity until they are four. They need the masterful and seasoned fins of their veteran casanovas.

So how do we save these sexy older gentleman and lady cod? By reducing fishing quotas. Experts want to see next year's haul reduced to just 25,600 tonnes, down from 32,000 this year and a peak of 360,000 in the 1970s.

Sounds to me like a good deal for cod everywhere. Yep. If only we counted fish votes.

Do say: "Mrs Codinson, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?"

Don't say: "Do we really want more teenage fish pregnancies?"

The GuardianTramp

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