Cod, Pacific Cod

Gadus macrocephalus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal seine net
Capture area — North West Pacific (FAO 61)
Stock area — Russia
Stock detail — Bering Sea (West) and Chukotskaya, Karaginskaya & Petropavlovsko-Komandorskaya subzones
Picture of Cod, Pacific Cod

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

Updated: April 2020.

The stock of this fishery is in a good state and fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. For all three subzones, the biomass is above BMSY and fishing mortality is significantly below the target reference point. Management tools in place in this fishery include a minimum conservation reference size of 40cm, a mesh size limit and seasonal closures of subzones. A TAC has been in place since the early 1970s and current harvest strategy in place is responsive to stock status. The level of bycatch is unknown but if Danish seines are not deployed correctly, they can cause destruction of benthic organisms and disturbance of physical features leading to a loss of habitat and re-suspension of sediment. However, there is no evidence that this is a significant risk in this fishery.


Pacific cod are also known as grey cod. They are found on the shelf edge and upper slope (100-250 m) in the winter, moving to shallower waters (<100 m) in the summer. Pacific cod are a demersal species, found near the sea floor. They are a moderately fast growing, short-lived species, reaching an average length of 19 cm in their first year and have a maximum age of 18 years. Half of the females reach sexual maturity at 4.4 years in the Gulf of Alaska and 4.9 years in the Bering Sea. Females grow significantly faster in the Bering Sea, compared to the Gulf of Alaska. They produce around 1 million eggs. Pacific cod prey includes clams, worms, crabs, shrimp, and juvenile fish. Their predators generally include halibut and marine mammals.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

The stock is in a good state and fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. A total allowable catch (TAC) was set for the stock at 140,000 tonnes for 2016 and 2017 (combined). The component of the fishery that is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified makes up 31.8% of the TAC. This accounted for 19,300 tonnes in 2016 and 25,200 tonnes in 2017. No cases of exceeding the total allowable catch (TAC) have been reported for this stock. The stock is divided into three separate stock components. The Pacific cod stock of the Western Bering Sea is separated from the stock of the Karaginskaya subzone by the deep underwater Shirshov Ridge, while the stock of the Karaginskaya subzone is separated from the stock of the Petropavlovsk-Komandorskaya subzone by the deep Kamchatsky Strait.

Western Bering Sea and Chukotskaya subzones
Nearly 50% of the total fishing effort takes place in the Western Bering Sea, and a further 6% takes place in the Chukotskaya area. Currently, the TAC of Pacific cod in the Western Bering Sea and Chukotstaya zones is combined, as the species is represented here by a single stock. The TAC is then distributed between the two zones based on the current trend in catch values. In this area, research surveys and models demonstrate increasing spawning stock biomass (SSB), biomass (B) and catch per unit effort (CPUE) of Pacific Cod. From 1993 - 2003, the SSB ranged from 320,740 - 344,040 million tonnes and by 2009 it had grown to 1,224,430 million tonnes. There was a decline to 793,070 million tonnes by 2013 but this was followed by an increase to 2,079,480 million tonnes by 2017. Pacific cod biomass in this area has consistently been above Blim from 1999 - 2017 and above BMSY since 2003. In 2017, biomass was 2,079,480 million tonnes and 1.9 times BMSY (1,123,201 mt). CPUE has increased from 5 tonnes per day in 2007 to 9 tonnes per day in 2017. In 2017, fishing mortality (F) was also below FMSY (0.105).

Karaginskaya subzone
Around 30% of the total fishing effort takes place in the Karaginskaya area. In 2017, the TAC in this area was set at 17,000 tonnes and 100% of this was used. Research surveys and models show that the biomass has been stable in this zone, with the stock in 2017 close to the highest in the time series. Since 2000, Pacific cod biomass has consistently been above BMSY. In 2017, SSB was 53,800 million tonnes, biomass was 129,300 million tonnes and biomass was 2.5 times BMSY (52,650 million tonnes). In 2017, fishing mortality (F) was also significantly below the target reference point for fishing mortality (Ftr = 0.294).

Petropavlovsk-Komandorskaya subzone
Around 16% of the total fishing effort takes place in the Petropavlovsho-Komandorskaya area. In contrast to the West Bering Sea and Chukotskaya subzone and the Karaginskaya subzone, Pacific cod stocks in the Petropavlovsko-Komandorskaya subzone are not fully exploited. On average, during the period 2001-2014 the TAC utilisation was only 57%. This has increased in 2017 where TAC utilisation was 95%, resulting in a TAC of 13,800 tonnes and a catch of 13,100 tonnes. Simulations show that is this zone, Pacific cod biomass (B) and SSB are showing an upward trend, with the biomass now the highest in the time series. Biomass has been consistently above BMSY from 2000-2017. In 2017, SSB was 56,000 million tonnes and biomass was 128,000 million tonnes, 2.0 times BMSY (64,150 million tonnes). In 2017, fishing mortality (F) was also significantly below the target reference point for fishing mortality (Ftr = 0.296).


Criterion score: 0.25 info

This fishery takes place within the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and formal management is conducted mainly at the national level. Russian fisheries management is coordinated by the Federal Fisheries Agency and there are a number of fishery management tools in place. There is a network of fishery institutes in Russia that conduct scientific surveys and carry out appropriate research and monitoring to underpin the basic advice for management and Russia has a comprehensive national plan to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Management tools in place include a minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) of 40cm for Pacific cod, a mesh size limit on the bottom trawl fishery and prohibition of target fisheries for Pacific cod in the Petropavlovsk-Komandorskaya subzone at depths less than 200m. Closure of subzones also occur on a seasonal basis due to biological activities or sensitive habitats or species in the area at specific times. According to fishing regulations, all Pacific cod caught as a target species must be completely utilised.

A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was first introduced for Pacific cod in the early 1970s. At that time, the TAC was based on direct estimations that came from bottom trawl surveys. Since 2015, the harvest strategy has been significantly revised with new requirements including analysis of stock size, life history, fishing technologies, determination of long term goals of exploitation, determination of target and limit reference points in terms of spawning or commercial biomass and fishing mortality. The harvest strategy in place is thought to be responsive to the status of the stock and has been designed to meet stock management objectives.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

In this area, Pacific cod is taken both as a target species and a by-product of fisheries targeting other species like pollock. Demersal otter trawl and Danish seine make up 53.9% of the total catch on average in the Western Bering Sea zone and 11.4% in the Chukotskaya zone. In the Karaginskaya subzone, Danish seine and trawls made up 68.4% of the total catch from 2001–2014, however in 2013-2014, an increase in catches by longliners occurred and now 50% is being caught by longliners or mobile gears. There are seasonal variations in fishing method and Danish seine fishing predominantly occurs during June to October, catching smaller cod than the longlines operating from March to July. The current seasonality of fisheries by different gear types allows for better and more efficient exploitation of stocks.

In Danish seine fisheries, bottom seines can be improperly deployed, causing dragging on the seafloor which could lead to the destruction of benthic organisms and disturbance of physical features. However, when deployed correctly and legally, they can be pulled close to the sea floor, without touching it. They are generally considered to be less destructive than other demersal gear types, such as otter trawling. In this fishery, the impact on bycatch species is unknown.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


Aydin, K., and Livingston, P. 2003. Food Web Comparisons in the Eastern and Western Bering Sea. ASFC Quarterly report. Available at [Accessed on 30.04.2020].

Eigaard, O. R., Bastardie, F., Breen, M., Dinesen, G. E., Hintzen, N. T., Laffargue, P., Mortensen, L. O., Nielsen, J. R., Nilsson, H. C., O’Neill, F. G., Polet, H., Reid, D. G., Sala, A., Sköld, M. et al. Estimating seabed pressure from demersal trawls, seines, and dredges based on gear design and dimensions. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 73 (1), pp.27-43. Available at [Accessed on 30.04.2020].

Lajus, D., Safronova, D., Orlov, A. and Blyth-Skyrme, R. 2019. MSC Sustainable Fisheries Certification – Western Bering Sea Pacific cod and Pacific halibut longline. Public Certification Report – October 2019. Longline Fishery Association. Available at [Accessed on 30.04.2020].

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 2014. Pacific Cod, Gadus microcephalus. Russian Federation – Bottom trawl, Boat seine net, Bottom longline. Available at [Accessed on 30.04.2020].