Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Northeast Arctic
Stock detail — 1, 2
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Haddock

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2020

The stock is in a good state, but fishing mortality is slightly above sustainable levels. There is a management plan for this stock, which generally follows scientific advice, with an exception in 2019. The main concern in this fishery is the high number of young fish about to enter it, following a couple of very good years for recruitment. This could lead to high catches of young, undersize fish if management measures aren’t implemented (e.g. a relatively low Total Allowable Catch and spatial and temporal closures). There is a raft of management measures in place: minimum mesh size of 130mm, bycatch limits for undersize fish, real-time closures where there are high numbers of juveniles of cod, haddock and saithe, sorting grids, seasonal and area closures, move on rules when corals or sponges are caught, and MPAs in which all fishing is prohibited. While trawling does have seabed impacts, these measures do help to mitigate them. Longlining has very few impacts on the seabed, but potentially may have a bycatch of vulnerable species such as seabirds and elasmobranchs. There are few recorded interactions with seabirds, but very little data on shark and skate bycatch.

There are numerous MSC certifications for cod, haddock and saithe fisheries in this area.


Haddock is a cold-temperate (boreal) species. It is a migratory fish, found in inshore shallow waters in summer and in deep water in winter. Smaller than cod, it can attain a length of 70-100 cm and can live for more than 20 years. It spawns between February and June, but mostly in March and April. In the North Sea, haddock become sexually mature at an age of 3-4 years and a length of 30-40 cm. Maturity occurs later and at greater lengths in more northern areas of its range.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

The stock is in a good state, although stock size is declining from a high level, and fishing pressure is slightly above sustainable levels.

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) in 2020 is 243,132 tonnes and has been above MSY Btrigger (80,000t) since 1989. Due to the strong recruitment of age 3 fish in 2007-2009 (2004-2006 year classes) the stock reached an all-time high in 2013 and SSB has since been decreasing - although another strong recruitment happened in 2019. Fishing mortality (F) was 0.38 in 2019. It has increased since reaching a low of 0.145 in 2013 and exceeded FMSY (0.35) in 2018.

ICES advises that when the Joint Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission management plan is applied, catches in 2021 should be no more than 232,537 tonnes. This is an 8.2% increase on the advice and the TAC of the previous year. Catch at this level is projected to allow the stock to increase by 9% in 2021.

The stock assessment underwent a benchmark review in 2020, and as a result the estimates for SSB in 2019 are slightly higher, and the estimates for F in 2018 are slightly lower. There was no change in the reference points.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

Management is mostly in line with scientific advice and appears to be keeping catches at sustainable levels.

There is a Harvest Control Rule for this stock, managed by the Joint Russian-Norwegian Fisheries Commission, which was assessed by ICES in 2016 and again in 2020 as precautionary. This limits changes in TAC from one year to the next to 25%, with rules for reducing fishing mortality if the stock falls below a certain limit. From 2016-2018 and again in 2020, TACs were set in line with advice, but in 2019 advice was for catches up to 152,000t and the TAC was 172,000t - 13% over. From 2012-2018, catches were below TACs, but in 2019 the catch marginally exceeded the TAC (by 3,000 tonnes). This means that 2019 catch was 15% higher than the scientific advice. In Norway, quotas are set separately for trawl and other gears. Norway and Russia can transfer to next year or borrow from last year 10% of their respective quotas.

There is a likelihood of higher catch of undersized fish in the next few years owing to a high number of young fish entering the fishery in 2020. It is therefore important that the fishery is regulated by a relatively low TAC and spatial and temporal closures to reduce the likelihood of high catch and possible discarding of undersized fish. The minimum size for haddock is 40 cm, and the mean length of age 3 haddock in February is about 30 cm - above this size, they are large enough to be caught in trawl fisheries.

Discarding is considered negligible in recent years.

Increased surveillance and monitoring at sea and in the air by both Russian and Norwegian authorities, including greater participation by regulation-compliant fishing vessels, and greater cooperation from receiving port authorities, has more or less eradicated Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing in the Barents Sea.

There are numerous Marine Stewardship Council certified cod, haddock and saithe fisheries in this area, so look for these products for the most sustainable options.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Haddock is mainly caught as bycatch in the fishery for cod, although there is also a directed haddock fishery. Trawls accounted for 66% of haddock catches in 2019, and longline accounted for 22%. Most of the catches are from Russia and Norway. Because haddock is a bycatch species, other bycatch species in this fishery (e.g. golden redfish) are not scored here. The main concern in this fishery is therefore the impact of longlining on threatened, endangered and protected species. While this appears to be very low, there is a lack of monitoring and recording.

This fishery is regulated by a minimum catch size (which varies by gear and area) and a maximum bycatch of undersized fish. There are real-time closures of areas with high densities of juveniles, where the proportion by number of undersized cod, haddock, and saithe combined has been observed by inspectors to exceed 15%. The area is reopened after trial fishing shows the proportion to have reduced to below 15%. There are also seasonal and area restrictions: some areas are permanently closed, either to protect juvenile cod and haddock (around Bear Island) or to reduce fishing pressure on coastal cod and to avoid gear conflicts.

The longline fishery is thought to have low levels of bycatch, with very low seabird mortality and recorded marine mammal mortality. Even a low bycatch may be a threat to red-listed species such as common guillemot, white-billed diver, and Steller’s eider. There may be bycatch of elasmobranchs and seabirds, but data are sparse.

Longlining has very little impact on habitats. There are designated MPAs in Norwegian and Russian waters, within which all fishing is prohibited. It is an offence for any fishing vessel to fish on or in close proximity to known areas of coral reef or coral garden. Norwegian vessels report the presence of cold-water corals or sponges in a catch and then move 2-5 miles away to continue fishing - this is monitored through Vessel Monitoring Systems.

There are several Marine Stewardship Council certified cod, haddock and saithe fisheries in this area, some of which have a focus on improving motorising of impacts on threatened, endangered and protected species.


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
Spurdog, Spiny Dogfish, Dogfish, Rock Salmon or Flake
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES. 2019. Barents Sea Ecosystem – Fisheries overview. In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, Section 5.2. 28 pp. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5705 [Accessed on 01.07.2020].

ICES. 2020. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in subareas 1 and 2 (Northeast Arctic). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2020. ICES Advice 2020, had.27.1-2. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5948 [Accessed on 01.07.2020].

ICES. 2020. Arctic Fisheries Working Group (AFWG). ICES Scientific Reports. 2:52. 577 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.6050 [Accessed on 30.06.2020].

MSC, 2020. Marine Stewardship Council: Oceanprom Barents Sea cod and haddock. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/oceanprom-barents-sea-cod-and-haddock/@@assessments [Accessed on 01.07.2020].

Seafish, 2019. RASS Profile: Haddock in the North-East Arctic (ICES subarea 1 and 2), Longlines. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/haddock-in-the-north-east-arctic-ices-subarea-1-and-2-longlines [Accessed on 11.07.2019]