Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Norwegian Coast
Stock detail — 1, 2
Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2019.

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 measures 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

The stock is in a poor state, and fishing pressure remains too high.

In 2011, a rebuilding plan began for this stock, with a target for Spawning Stock Biomass (SSB) of 60,000t (based on the average from 1995-1998). The stock has never reached this level, with 2018 SSB estimate at 18,423t. There is no reference point for fishing mortality (F), but the plan aims to reduce F from 2009 levels by 15% per year if SSB declines from one year to the next. However, Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has consistently remained at 21,000t, regardless of trends in SSB. If 2019 SSB is below the 2018 SSB, catches in 2020 should be consistent with a 75% reduction in F relative to 2009. If 2019 SSB increases, the reduction should be 60%. Recent fishing mortality is above the 2009 level and the estimated catch in 2018 is well above both the catch in 2009 and the TAC for 2018. Catches have been 2-3 times the TAC since 2004.

ICES strongly recommends the development of a new management plan for Norwegian coastal cod.

This assessment is uncertain, as it is not clear what proportion of catches is Norwegian coastal cod and what is northeast Arctic cod; recreational catch data is uncertain; stock dynamics are not fully understood; and the survey data is incomplete for shallow areas.


Criterion score: 1 info

There has been a recovery plan in place since 2012, that has entirely failed to reduce fishing pressure or make any improvements to the size of the stock. Catches are significantly above Total Allowable Catches (TACs), and fishing pressure is higher than it was in 2009. The aim of the plan has been to reduced fishing pressure compared to 2009 levels. ICES evaluated the plan in 2010 and found it to be “provisionally consistent with the Precautionary Approach.

A new plan is required, with regulations better targeted to areas and seasons where catches of coastal cod are high. Since these areas vary over time, the spatial management needs to be dynamic. In order to support such improved management, improved techniques for identifying areas with high bycatches of coastal cod have been developed and are now being used. Furthermore, improved knowledge of stock structure and improved assessment methodology better able to handle the spatial variability would be required to support this management.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Norwegian coastal cod is predominantly caught in gillnets (38% in 2017) and is also taken in Danish seines (35%), longlines / handlines (25%), and bottom trawls (2%). For fixed net fisheries (i.e. gillnets), 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 12,7000 tonnes.


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)


ICES. 2019. Cod (Gadus morhua) in subareas 1 and 2 (Norwegian coastal waters cod). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, cod.27.1-2coast, doi: 10.17895/ices.advice.4711. Available at [Accessed on 10.07.2019].