Cod, Atlantic Cod

Gadus morhua

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Faroe Plateau
Stock detail

Vb I

Picture of Cod, Atlantic Cod

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

This stock has shown some increase after reaching a historical low in 2007 but biomass is still below target and currently around the lowest possible level, Blim, of around 21,000 t.


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: 0.75 info

Stock Area

Faroe Plateau

Stock information

Two distinct stocks are recognised in the Faroes. On the Faroes Plateau the stock has shown some increase after reaching a historical low in 2007, but remains below MSY trigger (a biomass reference point that triggers a cautious response to reduce fishing mortality to allow a stock to rebuild) and around the Blim level since 2005. Fishing mortality (F) has decreased from the year 2000 but is still above Fmsy. The 2009-2015 year classes are estimated to be below average size. The 2016 year class is estimated to be the highest since 2009, though uncertainty is large. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, fishing mortality in 2018 should be no more than 0.22, corresponding to a catch of no more than 4579 tonnes (0.16 in 2017, corresponding to a catch of ?2.8kt).


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is no management plan for this stock. A preliminary management plan, including a recovery plan, was formulated in 2011, but has not been implemented. An effort management system has been in place since 1996; however this is not considered to be in line with the precautionary approach, and currently a reduction in fishing effort it is not being achieved. Management by effort can encourage accelerated technical creep and rapid increase of capacity per vessel. A group representing the Ministry of Fisheries, the Faroese industry, the University of the Faroe Islands, and the Faroe Marine Research Institute has developed a management plan based on general maximum sustainable yield (MSY) principles developed by ICES. The plan has not yet been approved by the authorities.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Cod are mainly taken in a directed cod and haddock fishery with longlines (58% in 2016; 62% in 2015), in a directed jigging fishery (10% 2016), and as bycatch in the trawl fishery (32% in 2016) for saithe.


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 4