Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Western English Channel and southern Celtic Seas
Stock detail — 7. e-k
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The stock size in this area has been below the lowest observed limit (Blim, 7,300t) since 2004, except from 2011-2013. Fishing pressure remains high and is above MSY. Atlantic cod is listed by OSPAR as a threatened and declining species in this area. Discards in 2017 were around 5% of the total catch.
ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should be zero catch in 2019.


Cod belongs to a family of fish known as gadoids, which also includes species such as haddock, pollack, pouting and ling. It is a cold-temperate (boreal) marine, demersal (bottom-dwelling) species. Also found in brackish water. Their depth range is 0 - 600 m, but they are more usually found between 150 and 200 m. They have a common length of 100 cm. Maximum length 200 cm. Maximum published weight 96 kg and a maximum reported age of 25 years. In the North Sea cod mature at 4-5 years at a length of about 50 cm. They spawn in winter and the beginning of spring from February to April. Fecundity ranges from 2.5 million eggs in a 5 kg female to a record of 9 million eggs in a 34 kg female. Sex ratio is nearly 50%, with slight predominance of females. The fish has a protruding upper jaw, a conspicuous barbel on the lower jaw (used to look for food), and a light lateral line, curved above the pectoral fins. Widely distributed in a variety of habitats, from the shoreline down to the continental shelf. Juveniles prefer shallow (less than 10-30 m depth) sublittoral waters with complex habitats, such as seagrass beds, areas with gravel, rocks, or boulder, which provide protection from predators. Adults are usually found in deeper, colder waters. During the day, cod form schools and swim about 30-80 m above the bottom, dispersing at night to feed.

Stock information

Criterion score: 1 info

Stock Area

Western English Channel and southern Celtic Seas

Stock information

Spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been below Blim since 2004, except from 2011 to 2013. Fishing mortality has been above FMSY for the entire time-series but has been decreasing since 2014. Recruitment has been highly variable over time. Recent recruitment has been very weak with the exception of the 2013 year class, which is above average. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should be zero catch in 2019.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

A management plan for this stock is under development by the North Western Waters Regional Advisory Council (NWWRAC).

Fishing mortality on cod is difficult to control because of the mixed-fisheries (haddock and whiting) interactions.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Cod is caught in mixed demersal fisheries in a number of ways including by demersal otter trawl (82%), beam trawl (7%), gillnet (6%) and seine net (5%). There is potential damage to the seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. The recent technical measures, nets with square mesh panels, introduced in the Celtic Sea are not expected to significantly reduce discards of Celtic Sea cod because they pass through the selection window quickly due to their fast growth rate.


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)


ICES (2018). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea, and Oceanic Northeast Atlantic ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018. (Accessed July 2018);
ICES Advice 2017, Book 5