Coley, Saithe

Pollachius virens

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Faroes
Stock detail



Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Picture of Coley, Saithe

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The coley stock in the Faroes has full reproductive capacity and is in a healthy state. However, fishing is controlled by effort rather than quota and this has led to fishing above the required level. Fishing pressure is too high and was above F MSY in 2016. Avoid eating immature saithe below about 60 cms and during its breeding time, January to March. To help reduce impact of fishing on fish stocks where fishing effort is too high, the marine environment, and species, choose line-caught fish where available. When buying longline-caught coley ask for fish caught using ‘seabird-friendly’ methods, see Fishing Methods for details. The longline, demersal otter trawl and jig fisheries were certified as sustainable fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council in June 2013.


Coley or saithe belongs to the same family as cod and haddock. Coley usually enters coastal waters in spring and returns to deeper water in winter. They spawn from January to March at about 200m depth along the northern shelf edge and the western edge of the Norwegian deeps. Saithe can grow up to 130cm. It is a long-lived species and can reach ages of more than 25 years. They become sexually mature when 5-10 years old and 60-70cm long.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Stock Area


Stock information

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) was below MSY Btrigger from 2011 to 2015, but is estimated to be above MSY Btrigger in 2016 and 2017. Estimated recruitment has been well above the long-term average since 2015. Fishing mortality (F) has been above FMSY since 1981. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, fishing mortality in 2018 should be no more than 0.30, corresponding to a catch of no more than 35 003 t.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

An effort management system based on the number of fishing days, closed areas and other technical measures was implemented in 1996 to ensure sustainable exploitation of stocks in the area. For saithe it aims at harvesting, on average, 33% of the stock in numbers. This level of fishing is considered by ICES to be inconsistent with the Precautionary Approach. The Faroese parliament decides the number of allocated fishing days for each new fishing season. In the 2015/2016 fishing year 20% of the allocated days for the trawl fleet were not used. With surplus allocated fishing days, current effort control is not limiting fishing pressure. The Faroese parliament decided in 2007 to cancel all fishing licences for Faroese vessels in Faroese waters by 31 December 2017. A proposal for a new fisheries management system was delivered by the government to the Faroese parliament in May 2017. The new fisheries management system is supposed to be implemented on 1st of January 2018.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Most coley from the Faroes is caught using bentho-pelagic pair trawls. Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) are mandatory in the pair trawl fishery to reduce bycatch and discards. Coley is also taken in mixed demersal fisheries which include cod and haddock. Fishing is prohibited in areas where small fish exceed 30% of the catch. Trawlers are generally not allowed to fish within 12nm of the coast. Large pair trawlers account for about 93% of the coley catch, with 2% taken by single trawlers and 5% by jiggers and other fleets. The minimum landing size for coley in Faroese waters is 45cm, however, the approximate size at which 50% of females first spawn is around 50cm, so it seems likely that some fish will be taken before they have had a chance to reproduce.


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