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. and 3.a
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 cms 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 Skaggerak 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 can be very size selective for the target fish but can be unselective at the species level for both non-target fish and for mammals, birds and turtles. Harbour porpoise are highly prone to bycatch in bottom-set gillnets used to catch demersal species such as cod, turbot, hake, saithe, sole, skate and dogfish and tangle net fisheries used to capture flat fish and crustaceans due largely to their feeding habits on or near the seabed. Porpoises are generally taken as single animals. The number taken ranges from 1 in 20 hauls for skate to 1 in 54 hauls for cod. High levels of Harbour porpoise bycatch have been recorded in the Celtic and North Sea. In areas where population levels of cetaceans are very low, such as the Baltic and the southern North Sea/Eastern Channel, even a very low level of bycatch is extremely serious in conservation terms. EU Regulation 821/2004 requires all community fishing vessels, greater than or equal to 12 metres, using drift, gill and tangle nets to use pingers - acoustic devices to deter marine mammal entanglement in nets. It also requires Member States to introduce observer schemes to monitor cetacean bycatch in certain fisheries, most notably in pelagic trawls, and the phase out of driftnet fisheries in the Baltic Sea. However, despite the pinger requirement coming into force in June 2005 in the North Sea, January 2006 in the Western Channel and January 2007 in the Eastern Channel, the UK fleet (along with the majority of European vessels) is still not applying this provision. The reasons given are that the pingers available present too many practical and health and safety problems. This means that in the UK there are still little mitigation measures in place to reduce what is likely to remain the main conservation and welfare problem affecting cetaceans around our coasts. Other measures that maybe adopted to reduce the number of marine mammal casualities include reducing the length of the net and soak time, i.e. the period of time the net is in the sea. Because of their durability, they are made of nylon; if lost the net can continue to fish, a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’.
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
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)