Last month we wrote about a shocking stat reported in some British newspapers: there are just 100 adult cod left in the North Sea. But the BBC News Magazine reports on just how wrong that information was. The number is more like 21 million.
The story originated in the The Sunday Times and was picked up by The Telegraph, which is where we ran across it. The misinterpretation of data relies on the question of just how old a cod has to be to be considered an adult. Whereas The Sunday Times chose to classify and adult cod as a cod who had reached the ripe old age of 13, BBC's Hannah Barnes and Richard Knight write, "that's not merely an adult cod. It's an ancient cod." A cod is fully mature at six years old and they begin the process of maturation at one or two years old, the UK's chief fisheries adviser told the BBC. Therefore the number of adult cod looks to be more like 21 million. The total cod population of in the North Sea is thought to be about 436,900,000.
The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations expressed anger in a statement on their website, and alleged that the original "100 adult cod" statistic was part of a deliberate smear of the fishing industry. "What is disturbing is not that a journalist, even one as highly placed as the Environment Editor of Sunday Times, can make a mistake," the organization wrote. "It is that this misreporting is part of a more general campaign against the fishing industry in which any pretence of balance or fair reporting has been abandoned." They add, "There has been absolutely no reporting on the fact that most stocks in the North East Atlantic are rebuilding, or of cooperation between scientists and fishermen in fisheries science partnerships, or of the innovative approaches to conservation that have been developed in recent years."