The Atlantic cod is a fish in crisis. The fish stocks in the Irish Sea have fallen drastically within the last few years. Recent figures compiled and published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) warn that the risk of a collapse of the fish stock in the North Sea is high, and that populations are now outside safe biological limits. The spawning stock biomass (the breeding population of the fish) hit an historic low figure during 2001, and during February and April that year, much of the North Sea was closed to fishing fleets as part of an emergency plan to protect young cod. It is also thought that the spawning stock biomass for the North Sea has been below the 'biomass precautionary approach reference point' - the critical level for sustaining the population - for almost two decades, and this warning also applies to waters adjacent to the North Sea. Throughout its range, the harvesting of young fish before they have been able to reproduce successfully is a serious threat to Atlantic cod.