Pollack or Lythe

Pollachius pollachius

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat
Stock detail — 4, 3a
Picture of Pollack or Lythe

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

There is no assessment of the stock. There are no directed fisheries for pollack, it is taken solely as bycatch in directed trawl fisheries for cod and saithe and by gillnet. There is insufficient information available to evaluate stock biomass and fishing mortality. For stocks without information on abundance or exploitation, ICES considers that a precautionary reduction of catches in 2018 be implemented. No advice was provided for 2019. The most sustainable choice for this species is line-caught fish from the southwest. For information on line caught and tagged pollack from these waters, see www.linecaught.org.uk. Avoid eating immature fish (below 50cm) and during its breeding season (January to April).


Distributed throughout the northeast Atlantic, pollack is a warm, temperate species belonging to the cod family. It is mostly found close to the shore with a preference for wrecks and rocky bottom. It usually occurs at 40-100 m depth but is found down to 200 m. Growth is rapid, approaching 10 cm per year. It migrates into deeper water as it grows. Maturity occurs at approximately 3 years. It spawns between January and April. Young of the first year are particularly common close inshore and may therefore be protected from fisheries in the early life stages. Species can reach a length of 120-130 cm. A maximum size of 130 cm, a maximum weight of 18 kg and a maximum age of 15 years are reported.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat

Stock information

For the first time in 2011 ICES analysed data for pollack in the North Sea. Landings data are insufficient to evaluate the stock in the North Sea, although information available for the Skagerrak and Kattegat indicate a substantial decline in stock size from 1950 until approximately 2000.
ICES cannot assess the stock and exploitation status relative to MSY and precautionary approach (PA) reference points because the reference points are undefined. Since 1977 there have been two periods of high catches. In recent years catches have been low, albeit fairly stable.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is no management plan for pollack in this area. There is no EU Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the stock in this area as it is taken as bycatch only.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

There are no directed fisheries for pollack in this area, it is mainly taken as bycatch in various trawl (65%) and gillnet (24%) fisheries including saithe fisheries.
Gillnets and fixed nets can be very size selective, but can bycatch species such as sharks, cetaceans and other marine mammals. Reports indicate that there is concern regarding the bycatch of cetaceans, particularly harbour porpoise, by gillnets. One of the areas of most concern is off the South West of England, where areas of higher gillnet fishing effort coincide with areas of larger harbour porpoise populations. However, these reports are based on highly uncertain data which cannot indicate the likelihood of bycatch either causing populations to decline or preventing populations from recovering. Progress on this issue is being made in some areas, with Defra leading work to improve monitoring and mitigation of cetacean bycatch (“Hauling Up Solutions”). A pilot project trialling self-reporting of bycatch is taking place in Cornwall, potentially backed up by electronic monitoring and VMS in time, and trialling the use of pingers and other mitigation technologies, which are known to deter harbour porpoise from entanglement in nets. MCS is pleased to see this progress, but notes that if catch rates of harbour porpoise do not show a decrease then scoring of this capture method may be affected. Because of gillnets’ durability (they are made of nylon), if lost, they can continue to fish for several weeks before becoming tangled and bundled up, a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’. However, static nets, as with all gear, represent an investment by fishermen, and therefore there are incentives to avoid losing or damaging gear.
Although the minimum landing size for Pollack in EU waters is 30cm, typically it does not mature below 50cm.


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
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


Cardinale, M., Svedang, H., Bartolino, V., Maiorano, L., Casini, M., Hjelm, J., and Linderholm, H. 2012. Spatial and temporal depletion of haddock and pollack during the last century in the Kattegat-Skagerrak. Journal of Applied Ichthyology, 1-12, doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0426.2012.01937.x.
ICES, 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Greater North Sea and Celtic Seas Ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018. http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/pol.27.3a4.pdf (Accessed July 2018)