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 — Norwegian Coast
Stock detail — I & II
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

There is clear evidence that the stock is harvested unsustainably and the biomass at such a low level that the stock is suffering reduced reproductive capacity and is depleted. A rebuilding plan has been in operation for this stock since 2012. Fishing pressure however continues to increase as regulations are insufficient to constrain the coastal cod catches.


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

Norwegian Coast

Stock information

Reference points are undefined for this stock. Despite the absence of precautionary limits against which the fishery can be fully evaluated, there is clear evidence that the stock is harvested unsustainably and the biomass at such a low level that the stock is suffering reduced reproductive capacity or is depleted. ICES strongly recommends the development of a new rebuilding plan for Norwegian coastal cod.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

The stock is managed as part of the Norwegian northeast Arctic cod fishery. Since 2004 ICES has recommended the implementation of a recovery plan and zero catch. A rebuilding plan, in operation since 2011, has since been agreed by the Norwegian authorities and evaluated by ICES in 2010 as provisionally consistent with the precautionary approach. The aim of the plan is to restore the observed level of spawning stock over two successive years to a level above 60,000 t. The rebuilding plan has now been in operation for eight years. The plan implies that the fishing mortality in 2018 should be at least 60% lower than the 2009 value. The 2017 data indicate increasing fishing mortality, and the estimated catch in 2017 of 65,587 tonnes, is well above the catch in 2009. The regulations have therefore not been sufficient to constrain the coastal cod catches in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and the most recent estimate of fishing pressure (F) is above the F in 2009.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Predominantly gillnet caught (38% in 2017). Also taken in Danish seine (35%), longline/handline (25%), and bottom trawl (2%). For fixed net fisheries, bycatch of marine mammals and other non-target species can be problematic. However, use of management measures, including acoustic devices called ‘pingers’, can help reduce bycatch of marine mammals. Estimated catches in the recreational fishery represents about 19% of the total catch in 2017. Unreported catches in recreational fishing are estimated at 12.7 kt.


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 Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Faroes, Greenland Sea, Icelandic Waters, and Norwegian Sea ecoregions. Published 13 June 2018 (Accessed June 2018)