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 or is depleted. A rebuilding plan has been in operation for this stock since 2012. ICES Advice for the stock for 2018 is dependent upon the results of the Autumn survey available in December 2017.


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. Spawning stock biomass (SSB) is at the lowest observed level since observations began in 1984, and recruitment in recent years has decreased rapidly to the lowest levels ever observed.


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 advice for the management of the fishery is dependent upon the Autumn survey results available in December 2017.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Predominantly gillnet caught (40% in 2015). Also taken in Danish seine, longline/handline, and bottom trawl. 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 35% of the total catch in recent years. 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
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2017, Book 3; The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace. Ross and Isaac (2004); The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atantic. L Nunny (2011).