Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area — West Greenland
Stock detail

XIV NAFO 1A-E (offshore)

Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The stock in this area comprises two components, an offshore component and an inshore component. The offshore component has been severely depleted since 1990. The state of the inshore component is unknown although the biomass is estimated to have increased in recent years. ICES continues to advise that no fishing should take place on the offshore component of the stock and that catches in the inshore fishery in 2018 should be no more than 13 952 tonnes. Avoid eating cod taken in the offshore fishery as this component of the stock is depleted.


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

West Greenland

Stock information

No reference points are defined for this stock, so the state of the stock cannot be fully evaluated. The stock comprises an inshore and an offshore component, each receiving a separate TAC.
After being historically high in the 1960s, catches decreased sharply in 1969-1970 and the offshore component of the fishery ceased in 1991. Since then, no fishery took place until 2015. Survey indices have increased in the last decade, but the Greenland survey declined sharply in 2016. The increase was partly driven by juveniles from other cod stocks using the area as nursery grounds. The age structure observed in survey data indicates that the abundance of adult cod remains low. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, there should be zero catch in each of the years 2018 and 2019.


Criterion score: 1 info

In 2011 a management plan was agreed for the offshore cod stocks with the overall objective of rebuilding the stock. Catches have historically exceeded scientific advice for both components of the stock. Closed areas are used to protect dense concentrations of large spawning cod in the east Greenland offshore area.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Cod is mostly taken in this area in a targeted trawl fishery. Cod is also longlined in the offshore cod fishery. There is potential damage to seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species.


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 2