Cod and western hake stocks in the North Sea are so low that the European Union may ban catches in much of the sea this year, predicts the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), a British conservation group. Cod stocks have plummeted so dramatically in the past 20 years that they are now at one sixth of their level in the 1980s, and some fear they may be beyond recovery. The decline seems to mirror a crash in cod stocks in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in 1992. The EU fisheries ministers will likely make a decision in December on whether to impose a ban. Prohibiting cod fishing in the North Sea might also prevent fishing for other species because cod are caught in the same nets used for whiting, haddock, and flatfish. The RSPB believes that both overfishing and warming waters are to blame for the cod declines.